Name: Bonita Peach Rooibos Tea
Ingredients: Green Rooibos Plant, Sunflower Petals, Orange Peel, Natural Peach & Strawberry Flavoring
Purveyor: The Spice & Tea Exchange
Preparation: One teaspoon steeped in about eight ounces of boiling water for 5:00, sipped plain
Tea is what brews from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves can be treated in a way that includes oxidation, creating black tea, or else in a different way that does not, creating green tea (or, of course, in any of a few other ways as well).
Any time that one steeps something not from the Camellia sinensis plant one gets a tisane, more commonly known as herbal tea. Some herbal teas are comprised of cheap plant parts whose only purpose is to hold the myriad artificial flavorings that make them taste so yummy. However, there are also very many species of flora that, though not related to Camellia sinensis, create legitimate brewed beverages in their own rights. Principle among these are hibiscus, chamomile, rooibos, and yerba mate. (The latter, in fact, is even naturally caffeinated, an extremely rare distinction among tisanes.)
Rooibos, naturally non-caffeinated, comes from the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant, a legume native to South Africa. The word "rooibos" comes from the Afrikaans for "red bush", and its beverage is also known as "red tea" for, of course, its red color. So imagine my surprise to read that I was drinking a "green rooibos". Surely, unless we are describing Christmas decor, this must be a contradiction, either a silly error or a cheap marketing ploy.
No, not at all, in fact. It turns out that what gives standard rooibos its red color is the oxidation that it undergoes during treatment - the same thing that gives black tea its black color. Green rooibos leaves are not oxidized. Avoiding oxidation "results in a grassy, naturally sweet flavor and a lower tannin content," as The Spice & Tea Exchange tells me, and boy is that ever so.
The Bonita Peach Rooibos Tea has the dual benefits of being an authentic green rooibos tea and chock full of some excellent natural flavoring, both at the same time. Observing the dry leaves, one enjoys a complete medley of colors with delightful, almost wood-like tones. The ingredients present as straight little sticks of light green, brown, yellow, orange, tan, and maroon. They fall together in patterns of little square clusters such that, while still packed tight in the bag, they look like the floor of the the Boston Celtics's home court before (or after?) a paint job. Taking in the leaves' aroma, one can smell the peach right away, with a mere wisp of spices and herbs. It is rich, sensual, sweet. If the leaves' colors belong to autumn, then the scent belong right in the heat of August on a hot, lazy day, the kind of day on which one can expect to find oneself biting into a ripe peach and chewing on the soft flesh as the strong, sugary juice allocates itself between one's throat and one's chin.
The tisane brews into a light, golden orange liquid, rich and suave. The aroma is also rich, smooth, a succinct combination of sweetness and spice. Or perhaps more herbs than spice in this case; the orange peel and the floral hints are unmistakeable, and of course the peach is hardly away in hiding. Sipping it brings back a wonderful memory. In many sushi houses - including, at least, the one where I grew up - along with the check come sucking candies, and not just any ol' sucking candies but ones absolutely packed full of the most perfumey peach syrup on earth. Well, take the intensity level down to normal, and there you have the initial layer of flavor of this herbal tea. As it hits the back of the tongue one gets a complex floral note balanced by both the sweetness and the rooibos itself, which is finally emerging from obscurity into a more visible role.
Those who require caffeine in the morning will probably want to stick with Camellia sinensis or yerba mate (or coffee). But otherwise, the Bonita Peach Rooibos Tea fits in nicely at any time of the day. The flavors are lively, the body is smooth, and the sweetness is a real peach. Enjoy.