Once upon a time, I thought it would be a good idea to try some plain rooibos samples from well-respected tea companies on the assumption that said well-respected tea companies would also, more likely than not, have finer quality exemplars of plain rooibos than I might find in my local grocery store. This was back when I was scratching my head over what rooibos truly tasted like since I’d only had it in flavored tisanes and felt it necessary for my own education to understand what rooibos tasted like on its own.

Since then several things have happened. One, my tastes have evolved. Two, I have learned what plain rooibos tastes like. Three, I have concluded that rooibos is not my favorite thing, though it has its place and I can enjoy it if it is in a blend and playing the role of the backdrop, quietly. And all of this managed to happen before I got around to trying my non-grocery store samples.

But I feel for completeness’ sake that I must follow through on my original experiment, even though I already know going into this that I’m not going to be buying a boatload of this after I dispense with my sample.

In the sample packet, the smell is actually pretty unbelievable. In a good way. It’s a richer smell than I normally associate with rooibos, and a sweeter one. It’s pretty close to spiced apple. The “needles” look like your basic red rooibos, though they’re not as fine and splintery as some I’ve seen. They’re more of a medium grain.

It brews very red, not surprisingly. The aroma is appley, with a bit of wood mixed in.

The taste is pretty much like it smells, which is what I expected. A better tasting version of bagged rooibos. It has a soft feel and a hint of vanilla.

It’s not something I’m going to be drinking straight, but it makes me appropriately curious about what H&S rooibos blends are like. I may end up trying some in my search for the quiet non-rooibos rooibos.

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I’ve updated this bio as it’s been a couple of years since I “started getting into” tea. It’s now more accurate to say that I was obsessed with tea for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it, and I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I’ve recently started writing fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I much prefer to drink tea without additives such as milk and sugar. If a tea needs additives to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’m going to rate it high. The exception is chai, which I make on the stove top using a recipe I found here on Steepster. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs into the harder stuff, but once I learned how to make a decent cup of tea they became far less appealing to me. That said, I’m not entirely a purist, and I enjoy a good flavored tea, particularly flavored blacks.

I like all kinds of tea depending on time of day, mood, and the amount of time I have to pay attention to preparation.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. I’m revising them slightly to make them less granular as I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas against other similar versions. So I rate Earl Greys, for example, against other Earl Greys, rather than against all teas. If something rates very high with me, though, it probably means it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is; will keep this stocked until the cows come home

90-94 First rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Excellent; likely to become a favorite, will likely buy more

70-79 Very good; would enjoy again, might buy again if in the mood for this particular one or a better, similar version not available

60-69 Good; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but probably wouldn’t buy again unless craving this particular flavor

50-59 Okay or run of the mill

Below 50 So-so, iffy, would definitely pass
or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.


Bay Area, California



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