Rooibos translates to “red bush” in Afrikaans. It’s a South African tea that’s increasingly finding favor amongst the health conscious for myriad reasons. Red Espresso is a product seeking to fill the gap between coffee and tea, bridging some advantages and practices from both beverages into a new, crossover product.
One of the tag lines on Red Espresso’s Web site reads “Who would have thought a tea could play by coffee’s rules?”
Who indeed? That’s quite a claim for this rooibos tea to be making, and it touts some health benefits to boot.
The product’s claims are intriguing. Red Espresso’s lack of caffeine is appealing to those looking to cut down (especially if those that have issues with decaf). Add to that the rich antioxidants (“5x more than green tea”), which claim benefits not limited to soothing headaches, boosting immune system, being non-diuretic, and aiding digestion, we’re talking “superfood in a cup” here.
To “play by coffee’s rules,” the bar should basically be:
1] A “grind” compatible with a French Press or moka pot (as advertised on the package), and
2] A flavor is robust enough to withstand a coffee-style preparation.
Red Espresso makes no claims of tasting like coffee*, but to reasonably replace it, consumers need something that’s robust, flavorful, and able to fit seamlessly into their wake-up routine.
(*Note: In the next few days, your Examiner will be featuring a somewhat similar tea product that does, in fact, claim to taste like coffee — from local Santa Barbara company Teeccino. Check back soon! Or subscribe via the link above!)
The initial problem with Red Espresso is that it’s not widely available in stores yet. It can be ordered via the company’s site or Amazon.com, about $25 for two 8.8 oz packs.
So how does it measure up?
It’s pleasant from the get-go, with a nice, fruity smell even in the package. The tea leaves do seem to approximate a coffee grind. However, the company even admits on the package that the grind is not consistent “due to the nature of rooibos tea.” Now, as discussed in these pages before, a consistent grind is crucial for coffee, but perhaps it’s a lesser concern for tea.
One hiccup (perhaps related to the grind size): you can’t pack it like you do your coffee. For instance, following my moka pot methodology (outlined here), plugged my moka pot right up. But using about half that amount should do it fine.
The process, and results, are pictured in the gallery below. By itself, Red Espresso is a strong, robust tea with a flavorful, fruity, slightly nutty taste that’s mildly sweet. Quite delicious, if maybe carrying a bit of a “health-foodish” essence in the flavor . . . a little like that inevitable aftertaste from snacks you’ve purchased at the vitamin shop.
But it’s a really vibrant, woody, warming and pleasing flavor overall. Definitely has a little body to it. Much like with coffee, a little milk and sweetener turned the flavor profile on its side, in this case into something more like a dark cherry or berry flavor. Still very good.
Can it ever replace our beloved coffee? No. But it surely will make cutting down easier, and add some variety to a beverage consumers routine, without necessitating much of a change in preparation rituals.