Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tea, Meet Sangria

Rooibos tea – born, bred, and brewed in South Africa – is a tea full of paradoxes.

Paradox 1: Rooibos means “red bush” in Afrikaans. Yet, rooibos does not come from a red bush at all. The bush is green. The leaves of the bush turn reddish-brown only after they are fermented, which is how most rooibos leaves are processed for sale as tea.

Paradox 2: Although this dark reddish-brown tea looks as if it must contain caffeine, it is miraculously caffeine free and, healthier still, is chock full of antioxidants. This makes rooibos the ideal beverage for kicking your caffeine habit. (If you want the habit to be kicked, that is. I like mine very much, thank you.)

Paradox 3: Rooibos is not a tea at all. Technically, it is an herb. (It is also a member of the Cape floral kingdom, which is located in southwestern South Africa, in and around the city of Cape Town. The Cape floral kingdom is the smallest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, and is also the most species-packed. In fact, Table Mountain, which forms the stunning backdrop to Cape Town’s skyline, supports more flora species than the entire United Kingdom.)

Paradox 4: Rooibos was first drunk in tea form thousands of years ago by the Khoisan people, the original inhabitants of large swaths of southern Africa. They introduced it to subsequent arrivals to the region, but it was not very popular. In recent decades, however, rooibos has become one of those patriotism-inspiring products that South Africans proudly claim as their own. In fact, it is almost trendy, and posh South African coffeehouses are now serving rooibos espresso.

I enjoy rooibos’ mellow, slightly-sweet, slightly-nutty flavor in a simple cup of hot tea or glass of iced tea. Or, twist my arm, on a sunny afternoon I like rooibos in this refreshing, non-cloying version of sangria. Tea? Sangria? No paradox there.

Rooibos Sangria
Adapted from Food and Home Entertaining, June 2004
Makes about 8 cups

2 cups water
4 teaspoons rooibos tea leaves
½ cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cups red wine
½ cup brandy
2 cups apple juice
1 orange, sliced
1 apple, sliced
Ice cubes

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the tea leaves, sugar and cinnamon sticks, and give the pot a stir. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture to remove the tea leaves and cinnamon sticks. (It’s okay if a few tea leaves slip through). Put the liquid in the refrigerator, and chill. This will take about an hour or so.

Add the red wine, brandy, apple juice, orange slices and apple slices. Stir. Serve with ice cubes.


Anonymous said...

everytime I visit your blog I get hungry from all the interesting dishes! now thirsty.... was wondering if rooibos tea tastes like regular tea, or if it has a distinct flavour?

lobstersquad said...

that´s a great idea! I have my rooibos phases, but it´s not my favourite tea. I have to try this.

Carolyn said...

Hi Angelo,

Yes, rooibos has a distinct flavor. It is a bit hard to describe; sweet, nutty, mellow - these are the adjectives that come to my head. Overall, I'd say that rooibos is more like black tea than green tea or herbal tea, but it is really on a class of its own. Another, similar South African tea is called honeybush, and would be in the same "class."

Glad you like the blog!

Hi Ximena,

I am very wary of sharing a sangria recipe with a Spaniard - I'm sure you have an amazing recipe that you use! The tea would be a nice addition, I think, to any sangria recipe. I think it makes the drink lighter tasting. Let me know if you try it!


Rooibos tea said...

Ever since I moved to South Africa and I tried Rooibos tea, I'm hooked on it. I love it. That's been going on for a year now. Still works for me.