I’ll have a green red tea, please

I’ve been drinking rooibos (a.k.a. “African redbush,” a.k.a. “red tea”) for years, and stocked our tea bar liberally with varieties of it. All of them use the same base plant — Aspalathus linearis — prepared with an oxidation process similar to what’s used for black tea. The plant is naturally caffeine-free, which is a great boon for those of us who aren’t fans of chemical or pressure decaffeination techniques.


In green rooibos, the leaves (shaped like needles) are heated after picking to stop the oxidation process and keep the green color and mild flavor.

Rooibos has developed quite a following, especially with all of the press it’s been getting for being high in antioxidants. Only recently, however, have requests started coming in at the tea bar for “green” rooibos.

I am in the tea business because I love the flavors of tea. I’m not an herbalist, so everything I do with tea starts with the taste. I ordered in some green rooibos for the tea bar, and gave it a try. Green rooibos has minimal tannin content, so bitterness isn’t a danger. For my first try, I made a cup using 195-degree water (I’m at 5,500 feet altitude, so that’s about 7 degrees below boiling), and steeped it for 5 minutes. I used one tablespoon for a 13-ounce cup, and did not add anything (no lemon, sugar, milk…).

The first thing I noticed was the color. The liquid is a beautiful golden honey color, quite different both from most green teas and from the traditional red rooibos. The tea is smooth and woody, with just a hint of grassiness and nut flavor. True to promise, there’s no bitterness at all, and no need for additives. Just to push the limits, I re-used the leaves, steeping them for 10 minutes this time. The flavor and aroma were almost identical to the first cup.

There are a lot of claims out there about green rooibos being significantly higher in antioxidants than traditional red rooibos. A quick perusal of the research still shows mixed results on that, so I’m not going to take a position on the health effects. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in it for the taste!

While writing this, I realized that I had tried it hot, but not iced. The folks over at Suffuse Rooibos say green rooibos makes a fantastic iced tea, so I took a break to make a cup of iced green rooibos (the research is the best part of this job!). I brewed it the same way (5-minute steep time), and poured it directly over a cup of ice cubes — again, I didn’t add anything to it. I found it refreshing and tasty; excellent for a hot day when I don’t want to overload with caffeine. I will definitely be drinking more of this!

About Gary D. Robson

Gary Robson: Author, nonprofit communications consultant, and tea shop owner. I've written books and articles on many different subjects, but everyone knows me for my "Who Pooped in the Park?" books.

Posted on 4 August 2011, in Styles & Blends and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. hello, you may be interested in dome studies on green rooibos here http://www.montegotea.com/research.htm
    joe ( huge green rooibos fan)

    • sorry the above address has research mispelt the correct address is; http://www.montegotea.com/research.htm

      • Thank you for the link. That page has links to some good research, but I have a few problems with the green rooibos article. First, it implies that free radicals are always bad (they are, in fact, required for our bodies to function) and states that they are unstable (there are, in fact, stable and persistent radicals — being highly chemically reactive does not imply that they are unstable).

        Second, while it is technically correct that green rooibos is unfermented, what they really meant to say is that it’s unoxidized. To the best of my knowledge, there is no fermented version of rooibos available. Red rooibos is oxidized like a black tea, not fermented like a pu-erh tea.

        Since writing this blog post, I’ve been drinking quite a bit of green rooibos, especially at night, and I find that it helps settle my stomach after a large meal. It’s a tasty drink, and has enough health benefits without doing the “free radical” scare tactics. For those interested in giving it a try, we have a nice green rooibos for sale in our tea bar and on our website!

  2. Bеing absent minded I гeally likе tɦe fact that thе steeping time оf Rooibos
    is not time critical. With the difference
    օf green tea whicҺ can be oversteeped easily іn јust a couple
    of minutes, Rooibos іs verey forgiving іn this

    • I am always grateful that green rooibos can be steeped for an extended period. longer steeping is supposed to help extract the goodies therein plus when I get distracted it is of no great concern.
      first thing each morning I brew a red tea with fruit prices. when it is done and poured, I immediately make a pot of green rooibos to steep on the warm part of the combustion stove. after waking up to a red, about 15 minutes later I pour and enjoy a supercharged cup of green rooibos. often flavored with citrus for morning zing!
      I drink mainly green rooibos but some red too. silver needles white tea also makes for a delicious change of pace that always, always relaxes me.
      regards, glenn

    • I quite agree. I must confess that I have, indeed, oversteeped red rooibos, but it’s virtually impossible to ruin green rooibos.

  3. Hi Gary, do you know if green Rooibos would contain l-theanine? Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: