Rooibos tea, which is enjoyed by millions of South Africans every day, 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, whether it be at home, the office or a café, Rooibos tea is ideal for any occasion, no matter the time of day.
Twelve percent also cited it a great after-dinner nightcap to help them relax and unwind after a stressful day.
Nicie Vorster, spokesperson for the SARC, said Rooibos’ increasing popularity locally and internationally is encouraging and is a testament to South Africans’ affinity for the tea.
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 majority (84 percent) 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 31 percent said drinking the iconic South African product always brings back memories of good times spent with family and friends, which many a South African – having grown up with Rooibos as children – can relate to with various degrees of intimacy.
The majority of survey participants (41 percent) like to drink their Rooibos in its purest form with nothing added, while 39 percent add dairy.
When it comes to sweetening things up, 21 percent and 34 percent does so with a teaspoon of sugar/sweetener or honey respectively, while 17 percent foregoes sugar entirely.
Twenty percent like their Rooibos zesty by adding a touch of lemon, seven percent spice it up with cinnamon, while two percent of respondents experiment with fruit for a unique flavour. Some also confessed to adding a tot of whisky or gin for a bit of extra ‘skop’ in their Rooibos.
Vorster said 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 (81 percent) were firm about pouring boiled water over the teabag, while 16 percent said it should be done the other way around by pouring in the hot water first and then adding the teabag.
A sacrilegious three percent toss their cup/mug of water – teabag and all – in the microwave, which in tea-circles is a big no-no!
It turns out the 16 percent was right on the money! Vorster explained that Rooibos should be brewed with either one to two teaspoons of loose tea leaves or one teabag per cup (250ml) of boiling water for at least five minutes.
A cup of Rooibos also makes for interesting tête-à-tête (dialogue) among South Africans.
Almost 40 percent said a shared cuppa among friends or family gave them clarity on how to not only deal with their own personal challenges, but those facing our nation as well.
A good gossip and updates on the love-front also counted among the conversations shared.
When it comes to the type of Rooibos tea product South Africans prefer the most, a whopping 44 percent said they still like the standard cup of Rooibos the best, while 56 percent cited Rooibos cappuccinos, espressos, flavoured, chai and iced-tea among their new favourite Rooibos indulgences.
“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,” encouraged Vorster.
Visit www.facebook.com/rooiboscouncil/ during Heritage Month and share why you love Rooibos.