Rooibos tea has become an integral part of South Africans’ way of life and is considered by many as our national beverage.
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. Twelve per cent also cited it as a great after-dinner nightcap to help them relax and unwind after a stressful day.
“Rooibos’ increasing popularity locally and internationally is encouraging and is a testament to South Africans’ affinity for the tea,” Nicie Vorster, the spokesperson for the SARC said.
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 eighty-four per cent 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 thirty-two per cent said drinking the iconic South African product always brings back memories of good times spent with family and friends.
• Forty-one per cent of the participants like to drink their Rooibos in its purest form with nothing added, while thirty-nine per cent add dairy.
• When it comes to sweetening things up, twenty-one per cent and thirty-three per cent do so with a teaspoon of sugar/ sweetener or honey respectively, while seventeen per cent foregoes sugar entirely.
• Twenty per cent like their Rooibos zesty by adding a touch of lemon, seven per cent spice it up with cinnamon, while two per cent of respondents experiments with fruit for a unique flavour.
• Some also confessed to adding a shot of whiskey or gin for a bit of extra skop in their Rooibos.
Nicie said that 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.
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 (eighty-one per cent) were firm about pouring boiled water over the teabag, while sixteen per cent said it should be done the other way around by pouring in the hot water first and then adding the teabag. A sacrilegious three per cent toss their cup of water – teabag and all – in the microwave, which in tea-circles is a big no-no!
Nicie explained that Rooibos should be brewed with either one to two teaspoons of loose tea leaves or one tea bag 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 said.
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.
For a truly South African braai this Heritage Day (24 September), try these Rooibos Braai-day recipes:
Beer-roosterkoek with fish pâté and Rooibos grape jam (makes 12):
• 500g self-raising flour
• Salt to taste
• About 1 can beer
• 300g braaied fish or smoked mackerel, de-boned and flaked
• 250g cream cheese
• 30 ml chopped parsley
• Freshly ground black pepper
Rooibos grape jam:
• 60ml balsamic vinegar
• 60ml brown sugar
• 125ml strong rooibos tea
• about 500g red grapes
1. Roosterkoek: Mix together the dry ingredients with just enough beer to make a soft dough. Press together in a ball. Divide into 10 to 12 pieces, roll into balls, slightly flatten each and place on a floured surface. Keep aside.
2. Fish pâté: 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.
3. 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 to 30 minutes or until the sauce is syrupy but not sticky. Cool.
4. 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.
5. To serve: Half each roosterkoek and spread generously with fish patè. Top with a good dollop of rooibos grape jam.
Rooibos fruit compote with ginger cream (serves 4):
• 500ml rooibos tea
• 180ml brown sugar
• 2–3 cinnamon sticks
• 2 vanilla pods
• 2 whole star anise
• Variety of whole fruit (e.g. prunes or peaches)
• 125ml ginger preserve, finely chopped
• 250g mascarpone or cream cheese
1. Syrup: Bring all the ingredients for the syrup to the boil.
2. Fruit: Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the fruit. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until all the fruit are cooked but still firm.
3. Cream: Mix together all the ingredients for the ginger cream.
4. 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.
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