When two different cultures intersect, the results can be utterly exquisite. Such is the case with Africa and India, two deeply unique and rich countries with many similarities and differences. Situated nearly 5,000 miles apart, both cultures have a robust history surrounding dozens of different kinds of teas.
As we explore here, each country, South Africa with Rooibos and India with Chai, has made an indelible contribution to the tradition of tea. Rooibos is native to South Africa, while India created Chai tea, a spicy, earthy tea blend used in Ayurvedic medicine. We felt blending these two teas together was a natural next step. The result? Absolute nirvana.
What Is Rooibos Tea?
Rooibos is known as a “red” tea and has a much different flavor profile than black, green and white teas. The color and flavor are achieved through a process called oxidation, where the sun dries and bleaches the tea leaves.
Many tea growers will bruise or marr the tea leaves before oxidizing, which creates a redder, sweeter tea. The tea can then be used in place of black tea in most recipes. Rooibos can also be dried and brewed green, without having been oxidized first. The leaves are steamed first before drying to keep the leaves a green color and the result is a sweet, mild tea.
This tea only grows in the mountainous Cederberg region of South Africa, and attempts to grow it in other climates or locations have been largely unsuccessful. There are more than 450 rooibos tea growers in the area and together they produce about 15,000 tons of rooibos every year.
How does rooibos taste?
The oxidation process creates a tea that is naturally sweet without adding sugar. The warmer or redder the color of the leaves is, the more robust the flavor of the tea will be. Rooibos is delicious both hot and cold and makes an excellent latte. Where black tea can sometimes be bitter or dry tasting, the flavor of rooibos is best described as having notes of honey, wood and caramel with an earthy, marshmallowy base underneath.
Rooibos tea has a number of health benefits. It’s rich in antioxidants from the oxidation process, which have been shown to improve heart health and improve cholesterol, as well as helping nursing mothers maintain a healthy milk supply. Green rooibos has a few more antioxidants than red rooibos, but both are excellent sources of health-boosting components. Red tea also improves sensitive skin and can help alleviate the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.
What Is Chai?
Chai is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy that is warm and spicy like an autumn afternoon. In India, the term is masala chai, which translates roughly to spicy tea. Although chai can be served black, it is traditionally served as a latte with milk and sugar.
Chai Health Benefits
Like rooibos tea, chai has many health benefits. It’s also rich in antioxidants that are good for your skin and heart but also goes further to help promote healthy digestion and improved immunity. Cardamom and ginger contain antifungal and antimicrobial properties, which can be helpful when fighting a virus. Ginger helps to reduce nausea and cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper can help control pain.
- Loose-leaf Chai. Loose-leaf chai tea has a mix of dried tea leaves, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods, peppercorns and dried ginger root. Loose-leaf tea must be put in a tea strainer or infuser since it does not come in its own sachet. It’s typically richer and more full-bodied in flavor than chai tea bags.
- Chai tea sachets. Chai bags or sachets are the most popular way to brew this kind of tea. They come in a box and may be wrapped together or individually packaged for freshness. Individually wrapped tea bags are ideal for the best taste. The tea mixture in a sachet may be ground much finer than with loose-leaf tea.
- Chai concentrate. Chai tea concentrate is already brewed, sweetened and packaged in liquid form. Consumers mix it with water and/or milk as desired to make a hot or iced chai latte. Sugar-sensitive consumers can mix more milk with the concentrate for a less-sweet tea, or they may prefer to brew and sweeten their own tea.
Rooibos Chai: A Match Made In Heaven
Both rooibos and masala chai have delicious flavors and incredible health benefits. Blending the two highlights the unique flavor profiles of each and creates the perfect alternative to black tea-based chai. We love how the sweet, caramelly flavor of the rooibos enhances the cinnamon and nutmeg and the pepperiness of the chai adds a layer of complexity to the smooth rooibos. Traditional chai made with black tea will always be a staple, but rooibos chai is a must-have alternative for a sweeter, caffeine-free cuppa.
Rooibos chai FAQ
What is rooibos chai?
Rooibos Chai is a chai tea blend using rooibos tea leaves instead of black tea leaves as the blend’s foundation. Like other chai blends, rooibos chai tea includes cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.
What does rooibos chai taste like?
Rooibos tea has a naturally warm, nutty flavor that lends itself well to the robust spices used in chai tea. The woody notes of rooibos blend perfectly with the nutmeg and cardamom, while the natural sweetness of rooibos leaves pairs exceptionally well with the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. The result is a smooth, full-bodied, and spicy tea that tastes like pie and has nary a bitter note.
Is rooibos chai caffeine-free?
The caffeine in traditional chai tea comes from the black tea leaves that are used as the tea’s foundation. When replaced with rooibos tea leaves, chai tea becomes completely caffeine-free. Rooibos Chai is an excellent alternative to traditional chai tea for caffeine-sensitive individuals.
Firepot Nomadic Teas takes tea to the next level with all-organic teas that are mixed in-house for the freshest flavor. We’ve been making our own tea blends for more than 20 years and have perfected the art of brewing the perfect cup of tea. Choose from our wide selection of chai including our chai concentrates in both rooibos and masala blends, our loose-leaf chai in both rooibos and masala, chocolate chai, yerba mate chai and our Soul Revival tea sachet for coffeehouse-style tea lattes at home. If you love the taste of chai and are looking to explore with recipes beyond the latte, we recommend our chai recipe guides for everything from vanilla chai bread to chai pumpkin pie!