Rooibos is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa’s fynbos. The generic name comes from the plant Calicotome villosa, aspalathos in Greek. This plant has very similar growth and flowers to the redbush.
Rooibos is grown only in a small area in the region of the Western Cape province of South Africa. Generally, the leaves are oxidized, a process often, inaccurately, referred to as fermentation by analogy with tea processing terminology. This process produces the distinctive reddish-brown colour of rooibos and enhances the flavour. Unoxidized “green” rooibos is also produced, but the more demanding production process for green rooibos (similar to the method by which green tea is produced) makes it more expensive than traditional rooibos. It carries a malty and slightly grassy flavour somewhat different from its red counterpart.