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Beyond black: tea products for health.

Herbal tea concepts are becoming more popular as the world finds itself looking beyond the traditional teas at the supermarket to teas that have added value. Do they taste great? Are they comforting? And finally, do they have the reputation for possibly improving or maintaining health? Many tea companies are taking this marketing approach, bringing the age-old traditions of using herbs for health into the modern consciousness, so that when consumers look at a box of tea at the market, they see so much more than just tea.

One tea that is truly making a name for itself worldwide is Rooibos, meaning literally "red bush" in Afrikaans (and often known by that name). It only grows in South Africa, and is best known for its needle-like leaves from which the tea is made, and its delicate taste and rich red color after it is fermented and brewed. It comes from the plant Aspalathus Linearis, rather than the Camellia plants that produce traditional teas

Used for many years in South Africa to calm stomach problems and colicky babies as well as to relieve eczema and other skin conditions when applied topically, Rooibos is rich in antioxidants shown to be both anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory. Various studies have shown a variety of health problems can be helped by drinking Rooibos including the ease of irritability, headaches, nervous tension and insomnia; relief of stomach cramps and colic; treatment of hay fever, and asthma, and an overall boost in the function of the immune system. Rooibos is naturally sweet and almost nutty in flavor so it doesn't really need any added sweetener--something the health-conscious customer is avidly trying to avoid. This is because it contains on average less than half the tannin of regular tea, the element that makes black tea so bitter. Tannins can also prevent the absorption of iron and certain proteins in the body. Rooibos is also naturally caffeine free. Folks, looks like red may just be the new green.

One company that promotes the healthful properties of their teas is The Redbush Tea Company, based in London. The company offers all-natural Rooibos tea with no artificial colors or flavors and that is GMO- free, in addition to an organic Rooibos that is fully certified. Their Rooibos tea is also offered as loose tea by a company called Blenders. Blenders will also flavor the redbush with peppermint, vanilla, lemon or cinnamon, and also sells Green Redbush tea (the unfermented Redbush, slightly different in flavor.)

Scientific research has also shown that Rooibos can help with many skin complaints Eczema and psoriasis sufferers experience relief from itching, dry skin and a softening of rough, thickened skin by adding a strong pot of the tea to their daily baths. And in South Africa, cremes, lotions shampoos and more are popping up on the shelves promoting these qualities. The Redbush Tea Company has found similar results with a line of Redbush tea soaps, which they are shipping to countries around the world for sale. They say their customers claim that washing with Redbush has made their skin "softer and healthier," while "others tell us how their eczema and psoriasis is clearing up, or their acne has all gone."

"In South Africa rooibos is clinically prescribed for such conditions, and has no known side effects unlike many cortisone creams which is the standard drug prescribed for many skin complaints" says Marie Heyes of The Redbush Tea Company.

"In Japan rooibos is used for many skin preparations where it is highly respected for it's anti-aging properties," she adds.

"I am sure as worldwide demand and knowledge of this amazing herb continues to grow so we will continue to see new and better beauty and skin products becoming available," she says. "Our soap came as a direct response to customer demand, and so we will continue to work with our clients to best anticipate and to meet their needs." If this is any indication, tea for health, even used externally, may have a bright future.

Another novel idea coming out of South Africa is from The Wings Group in Capetown. A manufacturer and exporter of Rooibos, they have combined the Indian tradition with their own heritage to create a unique new Masala Chai--Wings Instant Rooibos Chai with Soy.

The replacement of black tea with naturally caffeine-free Rooibos and the substitution of milk with soy milk, along with selected spices makes this beverage a tasty and extremely health-conscious treat. The creamy, aromatic and spicy cup now combines the traditional benefits of Rooibos, as well as all the desirable ingredients of soy milk, which is rich in protein, carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, zinc and B-vitamins.

Apart from tea bags, the Rooibos Chai Tea with Soy is Wings' first deviation from being a supplier of raw materials to producing a finished product. "We currently have a partner interested in fitting Germany's hot drink dispensers at petrol stations and canteens with our Instant Rooibos Chai. Quite interesting really if you think about the only choice between a dispensed hot coffee and a hot chocolate currently is a mediocre excuse for tea," says Ulf Grill of the Wings Group.

While Grill has seen the popularity of Rooibos grow in recent years, he says it can't all be contributed to concerns of health. "We can confirm that smaller customers that three years ago bought two or three containers a year have easily tripled their turnover in as many years. The steady climb of Rooibos is, however, not entirely motivated by the health aspect: claims of its benefits may, due to legislation, not always be displayed on the packet--and can also not yet be regarded as common knowledge. Rather, [it is probably due to] the fact that Rooibos simply is a tasty beverage enjoyed hot or cold, mixed with fruit juice or plain and can be consumed in unlimited quantities by the entire family."

Meanwhile in Argentina, a newer but prolific tea producing country, Laboratorios Pharmamerican has unveiled a line of herbal teas under the brand name Saint Gottard that are marketed towards better well-being as well. A company that also manufactures nutritional supplements as well, really knows their herbs.

Their new "Healthy Life" infusions are caffeine free herbal infused teas." "(This line] was developed for the consumer worried about his or her well-being, who is searching for a natural answer which benefits his or her health," says Daniela Alemany of Laboratorios Pharmamerican.

Its Slim and Fit (Buena Linea) tea, is made of Fucus, chamomile, peppermint and rosemary. Bon Apetit! (De Sobremesa) Tea "comforts and relaxes" according to the company and is made of Anise, Lemon Verbana, chamomile and peppermint. Their marketing materials about Sweet Dreams (Dulces Suenos) tea urges you to "relax and unwind" before bedtime, with lemon verbana, chamomile, lemon balm and linden flower. Vim and Vigor (Fuerza Vital) is made of cinnamon, ginger, chamomile and peppermint, is touted as something to give you "the energy necessary to tackle a brand new day."

To continue the emphasis on health, which often relates to weight loss, Saint Gottard even offers a diet program: the "FatKiller" program, which one can follow to loose weight while drinking the herbal teas. A package offered includes two cartons of Slim & Fit, supplemented by one each of Vim & Vigor and Sweet Dreams, a suggested low-calorie diet and recommended exercise program.

"At present, the consumption of natural products is increasing around the world and herbal infusions are not an exception," says Alemany. "In the past, many manufacturers operated with fewer quality controls and without taking into account the needs of the consumer, as the consumers themselves never demanded any great changes. Today's consumers, however, have at their disposal an immense quantity and variety of information that permit them to be well-informed at the time of choosing a product to purchase. This makes the consumer more and more exigent in their demand for truly natural, high quality products, such as those which are organic, caffeine free, without additives or conservatives, or those with the least amount of processing possible."

Their line of fruit teas are also free of artificial flavors and preservatives And anyone with a common cold--or who just needs to relax--would be lured by their tea that seems perfectly designed for them, but with a new twist: a Green Tea blended with peppermint leaves and honey flavor--part of their Oriental traditions infusion lines, which include a Puerh tea as well.

While each of these products holds a strong lure for those aiming to maintain or improve their health, Ulf Grill of Wings urges the consumer to buy with caution--that there is no "cure-all" out there. "Our goal is a well-informed customer and a consumer making a well informed choice. Companies and manufacturers active in the health-field have the obligation to convey that they only contribute a piece of the puzzle and that well being is in fact a holistic approach."

The Redbush Tea Company Limited, Churchill House, 142-145 Old Street, London, England, EC1V 9BW. Tel (44) 845 601 2658, Fax (44) 20 7324 2002, Email: info@redbushtea com, Web site:

Wings Group South Africa, P.O. Box 50949, 8002 V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa Tel: (27) (21) 5550-700, Fax: (27)(21) 5550-701, E-mail:, Web site:

Laboratories Pharamerican, Calle 3 esq. 6, Parque Industrial Gral. Savio, 7601-Batan, Mar del Plata, Argentina Tel: (54) 223 4642881, Fax: (54) 223 4542881, E-mail, Web site:
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Cup Service
Author:Levy, Amelia C.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Jan 20, 2004
Previous Article:On with the show: behind the scenes of coffee fest with David Heilbrunn.
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