How to Pronounce "Rooibos" and Interesting Facts About

Hello, everyone! One of our favorite herbs to work with is rooibos, but I think it’s still one that not a lot of people are familiar with. I figured today I’d share a couple facts about rooibos with you because it really is a remarkable one. First, the name “rooibos” means “red bush” in Afrikaans (which is basically Dutch with an accent). We’ve heard it pronounced about a dozen different ways, but the way that’s typically agreed upon as being the correct way is something along the lines of “roy boss” or “roy bows” (as in “bow and arrow”). The people I’ve talked to from South Africa typically pronounce it like “roy bosch”.

When the Boers arrived in South Africa in the 17th Century, they brought with them their taste for tea. The Dutch were the first Europeans to bring tea home from Asia, after all. However, luxury items from Europe were difficult to come by so they went looking for a homespun alternative. They found it in the “red bush” that grew on the hillsides. When brewed like tea, it made a rich, sparkling coppery-red liquid that had a somewhat fruity and earthy taste without the sweetness. Over the years rooibos became more and more popular in South Africa. It was easy enough for people in the country to “wildcraft” all of it they wanted for their own use, but it wasn’t an easy plant for commercial scale growing and processing. For one, the seeds are very touchy and require a very specific stratification time. It also seems like it’s uniquely suited for South Africa’s specific climate and conditions, because they’ve been unable to get it to take off anywhere else. Here’s the really interesting one though… The biggest problem they had was how to collect rooibos seeds. They’re very tiny and difficult to collect. One prominent farmer paid locals the modern day equivalent of about $70 (a lot of money!) for every matchbox of seeds they would collect. A native Khoi woman came up with a brilliant solution for getting the seeds…

She noticed some ants carrying away rooibos seeds and decided to follow them to their nest. When she found their home, she started digging and found a giant (ok, giant in ant terms) stash of the seeds in the anthill. She cashed in on a pretty good payday (yes, at the poor ant’s expense) and the scientist-farmer was able to come up with enough seeds to experiment and make commercial scale rooibos possible. Today rooibos is still the de-facto national beverage of South Africa and very popular in parts of Europe, namely Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. It’s still something that is probably unappreciated on our side of the Atlantic though. We appreciate it for it’s pleasant taste, the health benefits and because it’s caffeine free, meaning you can enjoy it at any time of the day.

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