Posted by: ben | August 3, 2009

marguerita red


(title with apologies to King Creosote, a track actually available on Spotify)

Ben: An area of tea-based wonder we’ve deliberately avoided up to now is the ole rooibos/redbush tea (yet bizarrely, someone does a Google search of ‘teatunes rooibos’ at least once a fortnight – who are you, bizarre rooibos-loving reader?!). Why have we avoided it?

…erm, good question. Considering we’ve been writing for six months it’s a big area to have avoided. I guess rooibos is relatively well-known – it’s even advertised on mainstream tv (admittedly on terrible, terrible adverts). It’s a bit of an oversight really. Neither Dan or I have ever even tried the stuff. We’re lacking in our quest to try as much as we can!

Rummaging through the cupboards on a wet Saturday afternoon, we found a wee tin of Adagio’s rooibos caramel. Seems like a good place to start. What will we make of it?


As this is our first foray into the world of rooibos, let’s do this properly. For those who don’t know, rooibos is not proper camellia sinensis tea but a plant all of it’s own. There’s a picture of the plant here if you’re interested. So this is technically a herbal tea – a tisane if you want to be horribly specific linguistically. There’s very little caffeine in it and quite a lot of antioxidants. It originates in South Africa. It’s quirky.

Is that enough background? I’m sure if you’re that curious you’d have already looked it up on Wikipedia or something.

A heap of fine leaves

A heap of fine leaves

Dan: While I was sneaking a look at Ben’s box copy of Laura Marling’s debut album (the cheeky sod – I told him about it and he goes and gets a nicer version) he was in the kitchen putting the leaves in the infuser ready to make the tea. When I heard him say ‘uh-oh’ I decided to go and see what he was doing. Nothing wrong – it was just the size of the leaves. Tiny grains that would almost certainly flood through the holes in the infuser into the teapot. Which they did, but not as drastically as we were expecting. A few filtered through but mostly they stuck together and brewed nicely.

For seven minutes.

That’s a long brewing time. But it was ready for drinking soon enough and boy did it smell sweet. Did we mention it has caramel mixed in with it?


Smoky, then sweet

Smoky, then sweet

Dan: The first sip yields a surprising lack of surprise. For something that sounds so different, it really does taste similar to black tea. At least initially – it does have a hint of sweetness to it but it doesn’t last. There is a smokiness to it and bizarrely a kind of ‘frothy coffee’ taste too. It certainly seems more like a coffee drinker’s drink than anything tea lovers would happily indulge in.

This is emphasised by the development of the flavour as it cools. I left mine for a few minutes and when I came back and took another sip, the unbelievable sugary sweetness nearly overwhelmed me. There was barely anything left of the earlier ‘tea taste’ that reminded me of black tea. The dry harshness was forced back into the aftertaste and left an odd taste in my mouth.

It was nice enough, but I wouldn’t go back to it with any regularity. I’ll stick to teas that taste of tea, please.

Ben: Aha! I was sneaky! For a rooibos introduction I deliberately chose this caramel blend because if the tea was rubbish at the very least it’d be nice and sweet and help to mask the horribleness.

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t looking forward to this one. It’s a herbal infusion. It’s not really tea. It’s just…. there. After brewing, I poured three sample-sized cups out for us to try (the fiancé was about the flat somewhere too) and breathed in the aroma. It was sweet, undeniably, and also smelt……oddly like normal black tea.

I tentatively took a sip – yes, it had the caramelly sweetness I was expecting and there was a slight strawy taste too but the remarkable thing was how similar it was to normal black tea. It’s not unpleasant, just a little, well, pedestrian. After a while it tasted kinda like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of corn flakes (it’s a difficult taste to quantify).

Do I like it? Not sure. There’s nothing to really distinguish it from a normal cuppa, really. I like to drink all kinds of tea because they’re all kinds of different – this is too similar to ‘normal’ tea for me to get excited about.It’s ok though, I suppose.

Ben and Dan were drinking Adagio’s rooibos caramel, available at $2 for a sample tin.


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