Rooibos, South Africa’s much loved calorie-less, caffeine-less and antioxidant packed tea, is now sold by Starbucks. And, hang on to your coffee mug, it’s a latte.
Yup, last night I convinced the troops, following a screening of Beyond the Universe, to have a Starbucks session at the branch here in Warisan Square, Kota Kinabalu and what would I see? A promo for a Rooibos Herbal Tea Latte.
I’ve seen Starbucks embrace all sorts of African coffees before, I was honestly surprised (pleasantly), by not just Rooibos, but a Rooibos Latte of all things.
Rooibos is Fynbos [fain•bosch]
Rooibos, as you may or may not know, is a type of plant native to the Western Cape, a province of South Africa. A spindly, dry type of bush, with leaves that when dried and brewed like tea, results in a red liquid. It has a distinct, but palatable taste, and contains no calories, no caffeine and tons of antioxidants. It’s used in a variety of products, ranging from flavoured drinks to beauty and skin care products.
But I digress. In my humble opinion, the Starbucks Green Tea Latte was a dismal failure. It makes me gag just thinking about it. Green Tea was simply never meant to be part of a latte, or to be had with milk and sugar, and that’s why, to my palate, it might as well have been phlegm on digestive biscuit. Equally vile to the palate.
Therefore, my first thought at seeing a Rooibos Tea Latte was “hold on there Mars Rover, you don’t know if them Martians are friendly”. As Starbucks was as quiet as you would expect it to be on the night of the first school day of the new year, I decided to quiz our friendly Barista a bit. “Have you sold any of these Rooibos Lattes?” I tentatively quizzed. “Yes,” he responded happily, “we have”.
“Oh, how many, do you know?” I inquired, fishing for an opinion of this Rooibos Latte, which contained the pride of my nation. “Hmmmm,” he said tapping the Point-of-Sale, “four today”. Only four? It wasn’t as many as I hoped. I guess people are cautious of something they’ve never heard of.
“Any opinions or feedback on it?” I said, persistent to find positive feedback. “Not that I’ve heard”, he said.
Adventures in tasting.
Because of the vividly horrible memories of the Green Tea Latte, I was extremely reluctant to try another Latte with tea in it. Something else that stirred my apprehension is the fact that the Rooibos Herbal Tea Latte is flavoured with a Rooibos Tea syrup (or concentrate if you will) and I never have syrups with my Lattes – it’s tantamount to sacrilege if you ask me.
I asked him if it was possible to do me a small sample, just to try before I commit to a whole mug (the Green Tea Latte was my first unfinished Starbucks beverage ever). “Oh, let me check”, he said going in the back to where his Manager was. He came out and affirmatively gave instructions for a sample to the Barista working the Espresso machine.
Moments later he produced two little cups of Rooibos Heral Tea Latte. “If you don’t like it, I’ll resign”, said the Barista confidently as he handed us the samples, and I put my nose to it, totally expecting something unlike Rooibos. Surprisingly, it smelled like Rooibos Tea.
I cautiously sipped the hot foam and the prelude was exquisite. I’ve been drinking Rooibos without milk or sugar for years, as like that it’s a pure health drink (no calories or caffeine, just antioxidants). However, a childhood friend’s mom used to make the most delicious cup of Rooibos Tea ever, and she used milk and sugar liberally. In light of that I don’t know why I was surprised that when the sweet Rooibos Herbal Tea Latte flooded into my mouth, it was heaven.
The look of bliss on my face, as memories of my childhood and afternoons spent at my friend’s house flooded through my mind, piqued the interest of my companions, so they sampled the goods as well. Both the Journo and the Doc agreed that it was quite flavoursome and very, very palatable, but they had already ordered and received their drinks. I immediately ordered a venti Rooibos Herbal Tea Latte.
We spent the next 40 minutes sitting around and chatting, me clutching my Rooibos Tea Latte, feeling as snug as if I was sitting on the couch in my friend’s living room.
Well done Starbucks, the Rooibos Herbal Tea Latte is my new favourite drink.