Rooibos tea, which is enjoyed by millions of South Africans every day, has become an integral part of South Africans’ way of life and is considered by many as our national beverage writes Jenny Morris.
This past month, the SA Rooibos Council (SARC) set out to determine how consumption of this local favourite has changed in recent years by polling more than 1 000 South Africans from diverse cultures and ages about the popular brew.
According to the survey, Rooibos has moved beyond a mere breakfast beverage with more than half of respondents enjoying it at least three times or more a day – whether it be at home, the office or a café, Rooibos tea is ideal for any occasion, no matter the time of day. Twelve percent also cited it a great after-dinner nightcap to help them relax and unwind after a stressful day.
Nicie Vorster, spokesperson for the SARC, says Rooibos’ increasing popularity locally and internationally is encouraging and is a testament to South Africans’ affinity for the tea.
It’s clear that South Africans have a fondness for Rooibos, but exactly what is it about this humble brew that draws us to it?
Apart from its naturally sweet taste and fruity, woody undertones, the majority (84%) of South Africans who participated in the SARC poll cited Rooibos’ health benefits as the number one reason they can’t get enough of it. A nostalgic 31% said drinking the iconic South African product always brings back memories of good times spent with family and friends, which many a South African – having grown up with Rooibos as children – can relate to with various degrees of intimacy.
The majority of survey participants (41%) like to drink their Rooibos in its purest form with nothing added, while 39% add dairy. When it comes to sweetening things up, 21% and 34% does so with a teaspoon of sugar/sweetener or honey respectively, while 17% foregoes sugar entirely. Twenty percent like their Rooibos zesty by adding a touch of lemon, 7% spice it up with cinnamon, while 2% of respondents experiment with fruit for a unique flavour. Some also confessed to adding a tot of whisky or gin for a bit of extra ‘skop’ in their Rooibos.
Vorster says the tea can also be used in many different ways in everyday meals and provides a unique flavour profile and personality that can add a touch of exotic to familiar dinners and desserts.
“Using fynbos, such as Rooibos in alcoholic drinks is also very trendy right now and is done from both a flavour-enhancing and preservation perspective. The subtle similarities between tea and spirits make them perfect companions in a cocktail. However you mix it, Rooibos offers a new dimension of flavour and complexity, which is becoming very popular.”
What do South Africans enjoy eating most with their national brew? According to the survey, good old rusks topped the list, followed by toast and jam, biscuits and cake.
When it comes to how the tea should be brewed, die-hard Rooibos fans will duel to the death over the technicalities. The majority (81%) were firm about pouring boiled water over the teabag, while 16% said it should be done the other way around by pouring in the hot water first and then adding the teabag. A sacrilegious 3% toss their cup/mug of water – teabag and all – in the microwave, which in tea-circles is a big no-no!
It turns out the 16% was right on the money! Vorster explains that Rooibos should be brewed with either one to two teaspoons of loose tea leaves or one teabag per cup (250ml) of boiling water for at least five minutes. “Steeping it for longer will increase the antioxidant content in the brewed tea. Pouring boiling water directly on the teabag should be avoided as this is not the best way to get the optimal level of antioxidants in your cup. The tea can then be enjoyed immediately or stored in the fridge,” he says.
A cup of Rooibos also makes for interesting tête-à-tête (dialogue) among South Africans… Almost 40% said a shared cuppa among friends or family gave them clarity on how to not only deal with their own personal challenges, but those facing our nation as well. A good gossip and updates on the love-front also counted among the conversations shared.
When it comes to the type of Rooibos tea product South Africans prefer the most, a whopping 44% said they still like the standard cup of Rooibos the best, while 56% cited Rooibos cappuccinos, espressos, flavoured, chai and iced-tea among their new favourite Rooibos indulgences.
“As a heritage brand, marketers of Rooibos have kept innovating and introducing new Rooibos tea types – growing into new market segments without sacrificing its essence. The fact that so many South Africans still enjoy drinking it in its original form, speaks volumes about its cultural heritage and strong connection with the people of our land.
“Rooibos remains a big part of the rich tapestry that makes up South African custom and it’s also a brand that ties us together as a country, so let’s all cheers to Rooibos this Heritage Day, while we celebrate all things South African,” encourages Vorster.
Visit www.facebook.com/rooiboscouncil/ during Heritage Month and tell us why you love Rooibos.
For a truly South African Braai, this Heritage Day (24 September), try these Rooibos Braai-Day recipes:
BEER-ROOSTERKOEK WITH FISH PATE AND ROOIBOS GRAPE JAM
500 g self-raising flour
Salt to taste
About 1 can (340 ml) beer
SMOKED MACKEREL PATÈ
300 g braaied fish or smoked mackerel, deboned and flaked
250 g cream cheese
30 ml (2 T) chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
ROOIBOS GRAPE JAM
60 ml (1/4 c) balsamic vinegar
60 ml (1/4 c) brown sugar
125 ml (1/2 c) strong rooibos tea
about 500 g red grapes
- ROOSTERKOEK Mix together the dry ingredients with just enough beer to make a soft dough. Press together in a ball. Divide into 10–12 pieces, roll into balls, slightly flatten each and place on a floured surface. Keep aside.
- FISH PATE Mix together all the ingredients for the fish pate and blend slightly. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cool till needed.
- JAM Place all the ingredients for the rooibos grape jam in a saucepan, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20–30 minutes or until the sauce is syrupy but not sticky. Cool.
- Place the roosterkoek on a braai grid high over medium hot coals and braai slowly until golden on both sides and cooked inside. Turn frequently.
- TO SERVE Half each roosterkoek and spread generously with fish pate. Top with a good dollop of rooibos grape jam.
GREEN SALAD WITH ROASTED SEEDS AND CREAMY ROOIBOS DRESSING
80 ml (1/3 c) extra strong rooibos tea
80 ml (1/3 c) Greek yoghurt
5 ml (1 t) red wine vinegar
5 ml (1 t) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
125 ml (1/2 c) mixed seeds and nuts (eg. sunflower, pumpkin seeds and/or pistachio nuts)
1 packet (about 200 g) mixed salad leaves with julienned beetroot and cranberries
1 ripe avocado, sliced
Parmesan shavings (optional)
- DRESSING Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing.
- SALAD: Preheat the grill. Spread the mixed seeds on a baking sheet and roast for 3-5 minutes or until the seeds start to change colour (but not burn). Keep aside to cool. (Do not roast nuts).
- Place the salad leaves in a salad bowl or on a platter, arrange the avocado on top, scatter with seeds, cranberries and parmesan shavings and spoon over some dressing just before serving. Serve the rest of the dressing on the side.
ROOIBOS FRUIT COMPOTE WITH GINGER CREAM
500 ml (2 c) rooibos tea
180 ml (3/4 c) brown sugar
2-3 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla pods
2 whole star anise
Variety of whole fruit (eg prunes or peaches)
125 ml (1/2 c) pickled ginger, finely chopped
250 g mascarpone or cream cheese
- SYRUP Bring all the ingredients for the syrup to the boil.
- FRUIT Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the fruit. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the fruit are cooked but still firm.
- CREAM Mix together all the ingredients for the ginger cream together.
- Serve the fruit with syrup and a dollop of ginger cream.
Place the cooked fruit in a jar and top with the sauce. Seal and keep in the fridge. (Will keep for about a week).
You can also dust some icing sugar over halved fruit and quickly braai them over the coals. Prepare the syrup separately and serve with the braaied fruit and ginger cream.
If pickled ginger is unavailable, use preserved ginger.