In South Africa, it is quite normal for a host or hostess to ask: “Would you like Rooibos Tea or Normal (English) Tea?” And of course, when we speak about English or ‘normal’ tea, we are actually referring to black Ceylon Tea. It is usually just a personal preference. But do you know the difference between these two beverages and which of the two is better for you?
What is Rooibos Tea?
Rooibos Tea is in fact, not really a ‘tea’ as such. Rather, it is a herbal plant (related to the legume plant family) known as Aspalathus linearis that is native to South Africa and specifically grown in the Western Cape. This herbal plant is called Rooibos or ‘Red Bush’ after it’s reddish-brown colour when harvested, dried and brewed. Since we consume it in the same manner as tea, it has been dubbed Rooibos (Red Bush) Tea.
What is Ceylon Tea?
While in South Africa, we often refer to Ceylon Tea as English Tea or normal tea, it does not originate from England. Surprisingly, Ceylon Tea refers to its region of origin, namely Ceylon – now known as Sri Lanka. The tea plant itself is Camellia sinensis. In our (South African’s) defence, Ceylon’s Black tea leaves (processed) is the most famous tea type. This is most likely why we speak about “normal tea.”
Besides the obvious differences, these two teas are more or less processed and brewed in the same way. And while both beverages are regularly consumed and enjoyed in our households, you might want to consider your preference based on more than just taste (although Rooibos Tea is also known for its divine sweet flavour).
Rooibos Tea is naturally caffeine-free. And while moderate amounts of caffeine can be good for you, excessive consumption can lead to health concerns, such as heart palpitations, headaches, sleep problems and higher anxiety levels (to name a few). As Ceylon Tea or Black Tea is not caffeine-free, you may need to reconsider how many cups of this tea you drink per day. By simply switching to Rooibos Tea you can cut down on your caffeine intake and still enjoy your refreshing cup of tea.
Rooibos Tea also contains lower tannin levels than Black Tea. Tannins, a naturally occurring compound in Black teas, has been known to interfere with the absorption of some nutrients, such as iron. Once again, by simply swapping a cup or two of your Black Tea for Rooibos Tea, you lower your risk of issues with iron absorption.
Rooibos Tea takes the lead again is when it comes to kidney health. Rooibos Tea, unlike Black Tea, contains no oxalic acid. Oxalate (oxalic acid) is found in different types of plants but is also often synthesized by the body. This acid binds minerals and can cause problems for individuals who have kidney problems. In fact, oxalic acid has been linked to a higher risk of kidney stones.
The natural choice
So perhaps next time you are faced with the question Rooibos or ‘normal’ tea? You may want to consider switching to our home-grown best, a cup of Rooibos.