Rooibos as it is known in South Africa, which means literally "red bush" in Afrikaans is probably one of the most untea-like looking bushes you could ever come across. Growing exclusively in the Western Cape province, in the Cederberg Mountains, a rooibos bush is around 1m tall and has fine leaves, not unlike pine needles. They are a rich green when harvested, but once fermented they turn the deep rusty red colour that we associate with Redbush Tea.

The story of how it has made the jump from being one a native, wild plants to one that is now commercially cultivated is as you might suspect more one of chance than creation. We know that centuries ago the San Bushmen used it as a medicine, they have rich catalogue of herbal remedies - their knowledge of "bush medicine" is unprecedented and many will know other examples such as Devils Claw and Hoodia. In later years it was used by the Malay slaves to make a richly aromatic tea, until one day a travelling botanist spotted them making the tea and the rest as they say is now part of Redbush Tea history.

But its secret may lie in its extraordinarily long taproot, which ensures that the plant is extremely drought resistant. Even as tiny seedlings the roots can reach 30cms into the ground and up to 2m in length as a fully-grown bush. Rooibos is also a legume; and as such is able to bind its own nitrogen, the crops are never fertilised, rather every few years the plantations are left fallow, giving the soil time to rest before replanting in later years. Through its entire history it has never been modified or subjected to hybridisation in any way, it is and will continue to remain GMO free.

Rooibos or Redbush tea is rapidly growing in popularity due not only of course to its delicious taste but also as a result of the growing evidence that it has no known side effects. We now know that this remarkable plant produces a unique beverage that is completely and naturally caffeine free and therefore undergoes no chemical process to extract caffeine. It also contains on average less than half the tannin of regular tea (Camellia sinensis). Scientific research has also proven that rooibos is rich in antioxidants, including the flavonoids quercetin and luteolin. Nobel Prize winning laureate Albert Szent Gyorgy discovered bioflavonoids in the 1930’s; quercetin is one of the most pharmacologically active flavonoids. It also has a synergistic relationship with Vitamin C; basically if you take the two together they can enhance the efficacy of each other. Contrary to some reports a finished cup of rooibos tea does not contain any vitamin C, as it is destroyed by high heat - hence when you add freshly boiled water you are killing the vitamin C.

The flavonoids quercetin, luteolin, orientin, iso-orientin, vitexin and iso-vitexin contribute towards the overall anti-oxidant content of rooibos. Not only is rooibos extremely rich in flavonoids but it also contains aspalathin, an anti oxidant which has not been identified in any other source. Recent Japanese studies have also established that rooibos contains a naturally occurring mimic of super oxide dismutase (S.O.D), which is another powerful antioxidant. The average 150ml cup of rooibos contains around 1.5mg of quercetin.