Upon returning to the North East several months ago, I moved into a lovely Providence house, with 3 delightful strangers. One of the strange convergences we have found is that 3 of us have spent considerable time in South Africa. (and want to go back)
Which is why it is strange to all of a sudden be finding rooibos popping up everywhere. Rooibos is a uniquely South African herbal tea (a tisane) made from some plant found around the Western Cape. Its a sweet, fruity tea. And I’ve never seen it anywhere else, not even in Perth which was crawling with Cape Town expatriates. Now its started showing up at local coffee shops (Espresso Royale was pushing free cups of it last time I was there), and on the shelves’ of Whole Foods.
And so I found myself staring at five Republic of Tea “Red Tea” offerings in highly decorative, probably collectible tins. I don’t remember this plurality of choices: Botswana Blossom (“scent of rose petals”), Safari Sunset (“cinnamon, cloves and orange”), Good Hope Vanilla, Capetown Harvest, and Cedarberg. My hand wavered towards the Cedarberg, some distant memory telling me that Cedarberg played an important role in the history of rooibos and was most likely to be authentic.
It seemed like a good idea, share it with my other South African nostalgics. And then I remembered, that I wouldn’t call rooibos a “pleasant memory”. And it all came back to me; being out in the bush for 2 weeks, with the only tea this weird red stuff, soaking rock hard unsweetened biscotti like things (hmm, what were those called? must check my journals) in it for breakfast. And the slow dawning realization that this was the only tea Paul had packed, and it was utterly devoid of caffeine or anything else vaguely resembling a pick me up. So at nearly $9 for a rather small container, I put it back on the shelf, and bought some nice Earl Grey.