Introducing African Red Bush Tea ( Rooibos )

by Heidi on July 11, 2012

Low Oxalate Red Bush Tea

Low Oxalate Red Bush Tea

Everyone has at least one or two foods that are hard to give up on the low oxalate diet, and they’re not always what you expect.  The hardest for me, hands down, was giving up black tea.  I used to drink 4-5 cups of tea a day most of it hot with cream, even on a blistering summer day.  I also enjoy herbal teas and iced tea, but for me these are separate drinks entirely, and low oxalate herbal teas – hot or iced – haven’t filled the void (most herbal teas are low oxalate and many, such a Bigelow Perfect Peach, make very good iced tea).

For awhile I fooled myself into thinking that one cup of black tea a day wasn’t going to hurt me, but the more I’ve learned about soluble oxalate versus insoluble oxalate, the more I know this isn’t true.  The oxalate in tea is all soluble oxalate, which is much more readily absorbed by the body than insoluble oxalate, especially for people with poor gut health. I would have terrible flare-ups for “no reason” that stopped when I quit black tea for awhile (and quit again and again).

About a year ago, I decided to kick the black tea habit for good.  It was a long, bumpy road at first. Then I rediscovered African Red Bush Tea  ( rooibos ).  I tried rooibos for the first time back in 2006 (before we knew it was low oxalate) in an upscale African safari lodge where they served it hot with lemon and sugar.  I enjoyed it, but it didn’t occur to me to try it again until a  few months ago.  Wow! I absolutely loved it!!!  Rooibos is the first low oxalate tea I have found that both tastes great and is full-bodied enough to enjoy hot with cream.  It’s naturally sweet and mild and has a slightly nutty flavor with a hint of cherries.  It is produced in the Cedarberg region of South Africa, where it has been enjoyed for centuries, but it has only become popular around the world in the last few years, both for its health benefits and for its literary fame as the favorite tea of beloved character, Precious Ramotswe, in The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency(a fun summer read BTW that was made into one of my favorite TV shows — the series premiere is absolutely fabulous!).

red expresso

Rooibos ground fine to make Red Expresso

Rooibos is rich in antioxidants, is naturally caffeine free and contains very few tannins (click here or here for two good, fully referenced article on the health benefits of rooibos ).  It doesn’t have the bitter after taste that black and green teas can have, and works well in herbal blends or as a stand-alone tea.  Three commercial brands of rooibos tea have been tested for oxalate content between 2007 and 2011 by the Vulvar Pain Foundation and the Autism Oxalate Project – Tazo African Red Bush (1.6 mg. oxalate per cup), Celestial Seasonings Madagascar Vanilla (0.9 mg. oxalate per cup), and Strand Organic Rooibos (1.1 mg. oxalate per cup). All are low oxalate or very low oxalate and all are delicious in their own way.

Celestial Seasonings Madagascar Vanilla:  This is my favorite of the three tested rooibos teas.  It is lovely served hot with cream or milk as a morning tea, afternoon tea, or especially as an after-dinner tea (remember it’s caffeine free!)  It’s okay as an iced tea, but this tea really shines when served hot.  The vanilla flavoring is subtle and adds a rich, creamy depth to this tea.  The strange thing is I don’t like vanilla-flavored black teas, so I was surprised how much I love this tea.  It’s truly one of my all-time favorites and it is singularly responsible for my ability to kick the black tea habit.  Where to buy: I have found Madagascar Vanilla in natural foods stores and large grocery store chains in my hometown.  For me, it’s substantially cheaper on-line through Amazon, especially when I buy it in bulk (click here for a single box and here for a good bulk price). UK readers click here.

Strand Organic Rooibos: This is pure rooibos without any added ingredients-a nutty, fruity somewhat sweet tea with a bright red color.  You can buy it loose leaf and mix your own tea, or buy it in bags.  I love plain rooibos because it’s so versatile.  It tastes good served hot with cream, served hot with lemon and sugar, or served iced.  Strand Organic Tea Company also sells a Madagascar Vanilla variety which is their best selling rooibos tea and is likely also low oxalate (it has not been tested) in case you are looking for an organic version of  my favorite “Madagascar Vanilla.”  Where to buy: I haven’t had any luck finding Strand teas in my local stores.  You also can’t get it through Amazon (which only is a bummer if you wanted to add it to a bigger order and get free shipping, which is what I often do).  I had to buy it straight from the Strand company, but it’s quite reasonably priced for an organic tea and I really like this company’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and their community.  Click here for the company website and rooibos product/ordering information.

Tazo African Red Bush: This is a wonderful,yummy high-quality tea that tastes great served hot or iced.  It is sweet and bold-tasting with a nutty, somewhat tart and fruity flavor.  My only problem with this tea is that it has so many added herbal ingredients that it no longer feels like an acceptable alternative to black tea to me.  Instead it’s just another really good herbal tea that I enjoy when I’m in the mood for herbal tea. I definitely don’t want this tea served hot with cream.  Where to buy:  I’ve only found Tazo African Red Bush tea in a couple of natural foods stores in my town.  It is a bit pricey, whether you get it in bulk on-line (click here), in single boxes on-line (click here) or at your local health food store (I paid $5.00 for a box of 24 bags).  UK readers click here.

Photo credits go to Lyle Nel for Rooibos and to Michael Allen Smith for Red Expresso.

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