Regarding Rooibos (A Pure Matcha - Red Matcha Review)

Rooibos is like the O’Doule’s of the tea world, mainly for the reason that it’s not really “tea” in the traditional sense. Anything tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant; all true teas, that is. Anything else is considered a tisane or herbal infusion. The South African plant gained some measure of recognition as a hearty herbal substitute for black tea. That and - over the course of centuries - it also was used for various medicinal pursuits - gastrointestinal concerns, headaches, colds, zombie plague…you name it. (Okay, I made the last part up.)

The red-brown, needle-like concoction also has a close relative known as honeybush that has a decidedly sweeter taste. Nowadays, both are used as the base for many fruit blends on the market. Rooibos and honeybush also combine well together. Traditionally, rooibos is oxidized in a fashion similar to black tea, but there also exists an unoxidized (i.e. steamed) version - green rooibos - which also happens to be my favorite. Imagine my cocked-eyebrowed surprise when someone championed a rooibos matcha as a product.

I love matcha. The Japanese powdered form of green tea is my go-to morning drink. I use it in place of multivitamins because - in essence - I’m getting a powerhouse-worth consuming an entire tea leaf. Another happy side-effect is the added caffeine and the extra boost in fiber. Sometimes, though, the caffeine can be a hindrance. I one time did a search for herbal substitutes but came up empty. Pure Matcha came to my attention via the bastion of aggregated “information” - Twitter. After a quick dialogue (and some whimpering on my part) they were kind enough to impart a sample for review.

Pure Matcha purports that their primary powder cultivator resides in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. They mention that it is one of the two major producing regions for premium ceremonial-grade matcha; the other being Uji Prefecture. I already knew about Uji, but I was unaware of Aichi. The only other matcha region I knew of was Izu in Shizuoka Prefecture, where most of the Japan’s sencha is grown. There was no information about whether their Red Matcha (the rooibos variant) was made in Japan, but I figured it was.

The rooibos powder itself was finely-ground and almost looked stone pulverized. I doubted it was, given the consistency of rooibos needles and the great care required to grind it down. Whatever the process, the result was a powder with a faded, pinkish hue and the requisite nut-sweet smell that was a rooibos “staple”.

Pure Matcha recommended that - since rooibos powder had a different consistency - to utilize a blender for preparation. While my brother had a blender, I didn’t want to bother with the clean-up. I took an old miso soup bowl that I always used for matcha, boiled some water, and used a chasen (bamboo whisk) for the first test. The red-brown liquid frothed up quite nicely at first, even imparting a happy fizzing noise. The bubbles dissipated soon after, though.

To the taste, and to my relief, I can say it was all rooibos. The only major change was in the texture. Along with the usual nut-sweet profile associated with the little legume was a thicker consistency. It was both slightly chalky but fluffy - a very odd combination. I did a re-whisk with a milk frother to see if that turned up anything different. Aside from a shift in texture more to the chalky, the taste was the same.

Safely said, this was a unique and quite excellent take on an old South African cape-grown cup. I’m not really sure which is the better method, though. Steeping normal rooibos yields a nutty, sweet, dark cup and you get more of it. However, the powdered form yields an even denser brew with even more of that natural sweetness. For sake of laziness, time and prep, I’d say Red Matcha wins by a hair. I would strongly recommend it.

PS ~ If I had one gripe (and it’s a small one) it’s that there isn’t a GREEN rooibos matcha out there. Pure Matcha, get on it. You’d make this lazy, tea-swigging writer very happy.

For more information on Pure Matcha, go HERE.

To purchase Red Matcha, go HERE.

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Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 Steep Stories

2 Comments to Regarding Rooibos (A Pure Matcha - Red Matcha Review)

  1. Very cool stuff! I love cooking with matcha. I wonder how this stuff would fare when mixed into cookies or muffins.

  2. Nicole on February 22nd, 2011
  3. If I knew how to cook, I would experiment, too. But I’m just an eater.

  4. Geoffrey F. Norman on February 23rd, 2011

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