I still remember the night well. Interestingly enough, it was my wife that introduced me to my paramour. Perhaps accidentally or perhaps to infuse our relationship with something new or something infinitely passionate, she placed the box of rooibos tea in the cupboard and “forgot about it” as she put away the remainder of the groceries. Intrigued and maybe a little turned on, I glanced at the box quickly before she shut the cupboard door.
Later that night, while my wife lay sleeping, I crept out of bed. Fretfully, I fidgeted for the lights and opened the cabinet. There it was, sitting in a simple box mocking me with its lustre, with its dynamic facade. In a fit of ardour that represented the zenith of the day’s inquisitiveness and the built-up strain, I tore into the box and boiled some water.
I don’t need to tell you what happened next…
Since that night of passion, my affair with rooibos has continued and, amazingly or not, expanded. When my wife discovered my illicit love, she was not angered and she was not traumatized. In fact, she was thrilled and she joined in much as I always hoped she would should Scarlett Johansson ever return my calls.
So now, today, on a perfect evening, it is a cup of rooibos that sits alongside my wife and me. Its ruby colour, its charm, and its zest dances on the tongue like some audacious, spirited tango.
For centuries, only the Khoisans in South Africa knew about rooibos. Used regularly as an herbal remedy for a wide range of maladies, the secret of rooibos almost vanished when the tribe dwindled away and eventually disappeared. In 1772, botanist Carl Humberg rediscovered rooibos and brought it back as a beverage because of its delectable, sweet qualities.
Rooibos tea was enjoyed by South Africans, mainly, but Russian immigrant Benjamin Ginsberg soon realized the marketing potential of the herb and began offering the tea worldwide. The reputation of the tea rose during World War II as the accessibility of “real” tea from Asia became sparse.
In 1968, South African mother Annique Theron discovered another fantastic property pertaining to rooibos and stumbled upon the very factor that began my affair with the herbal tea. While trying to calm her infant from the effects of colic and insomnia, she used rooibos and found that the herb relieved her child of the symptoms and offered peace and quiet. Surprised, she began to document the natural healing potential of the herb and published her findings in a 1970 book.
In my case, I turned to rooibos tea for the large presence of antioxidants (similar to the polyphenols found in green tea). Rooibos is also caffeine-free, which is favourable for me because caffeine tends to exacerbate my ulcerative colitis.
Beyond being utterly delicious, rooibos tea has been used to still and pacify infants by offering relief of colic and stomach cramps. It also is used in South Africa to treat allergies, including hay fever and asthma symptoms. Containing almost no oxalic acid, rooibos tea is an idyllic drink for those with kidney stones.
What began as a brief affair has now become a full-on bond. My wife and I enjoy the company of rooibos tea habitually and are relentlessly on the lookout for new ways to include this passionate herb in our lives. Standard tea bags of the stuff may strip out some of the health benefits, so a loose leaf variety is probably best. All the same, the delicious, vivacious herbal tea has become an important part of my life and has offered healing, comfort, and, yes, passion.