Bitterness in tea usually stems from an over abundance of tannins. In right proportions, tannins make for a fantastic cup of tea by creating a complex taste. They also help the body thrive with their antibacterial and blood pressure lowering properties.
Although rooibos has fewer tannins than black or green tea, they are still in there and can easily turn a beautiful cup of tea into something you want to pour down the sink. Here’s how to make rooibos tea taste better if you’re not a huge fan of your brew.
Rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss), also known as redbush tea, is a South African red herbal tea made from the oxidized leaves of a shrub called Aspalathus linearis. It is also available in an unoxidized form, and this is called green rooibos.
How to Make Rooibos Tea Taste Better
If you’ve ever had a nasty cup of rooibos tea and want to know how to make rooibos tea taste better, keep reading for all sorts of great ideas.
Use The Best Water You Can
If the water you’re using to make your tea tastes bitter or minerally, your rooibos tea is going to taste bad, too. Whenever possible, use spring water or purified water.
Use Hot, Not Boiling, Water
Water that is still bubbling when you pour it is too hot for rooibos and can create bitterness that you don’t want. I like to boil my kettle, then remove it from the heat and wait until it stops bubbling before pouring it over my tea leaves.
Choose Loose Leaf Tea
When tea is packaged in tea bags, it gets crushed in transit, resulting in a tea dust that releases more tannins when hot water is added. Choosing a high quality loose leaf rooibos tea like our Coconut Ginger Soother made with both green and red rooibos, our Custard Apple (cherimoya) tea made with green rooibos, or Pears and Cinnamon blend results in a cup of tea that is smooth, flavorful, and that beautiful reddish rooibos color.
Steep Just Right
Tea strength is a matter of taste. Some like it light and delicately flavored, others prefer it black as midnight, strong, and bitter, and some like it somewhere in the middle. I’m usually a strong tea person, but while working on this article, I decided to experiment with three different steeping times for three cups of rooibos tea.
Each cup was brewed with spring water just off the boil and sweetened with a drizzle of raw honey. The first one I set the timer for just 1 minute before removing the tea. The second I let steep about 4 minutes, and the third I let steep until it was room temperature.
As I tasted each one I was astounded at the difference.
The third cup tasted muddy, as if someone had stirred in a bit of dust with the tea. The second wasn’t bad, though it definitely had a layer of bitterness to it. The first cup, which steeped the shortest amount of time, was absolutely delicious. There wasn’t a hint of bitterness, yet the flavor of the rooibos shone through. The color of the tea was also affected. The first cup was a clear, pretty amber, with each succeeding cup growing increasingly darker and duller. Needless to say, from now on I’ll definitely be brewing my rooibos tea for only a short time.
Choose a Rooibos Blend
If you want the health benefits of rooibos but really aren’t partial to the taste, try a rooibos blended with other herbs and spices you enjoy. Our Chocolate Rosemary Caramel herbal tea has cocoa nibs, rosemary, and hints of vanilla and chocolate essence, while the Vanilla Sugar Cookie Dessert Tea is laced with cinnamon, blackberry, ginger, fennel, and vanilla.
When all else fails, adding your favorite sweetener can redeem even a bitter cup of tea. While sugar is a tried and true choice, I find that raw honey, real maple syrup or maple dust, or a bit of brown sugar add a beautiful warmth and extra layer of flavor to rooibos that is absolutely scrumptious.