African Red Tea Imports

Tea House Therapy From the Jewish Journal
By Carin Davis

Tired of serving up that familiar holiday honey cake? At the Rooibos Tea House, a happy, healthy New Year starts with African red tea and red tea baked goods.

"Cooking with our tea is a delicious way to celebrate the High Holidays — tasty and energizing," said Rooibos owner Nira Levy Maslin.

As I enter Rooibos Tea House on Fairfax, I look past the mahogany table and the draped white sheaths to find the source of that welcoming voice. With large dark eyes and an even larger smile, Maslin invites me to join her and her partner, Michael Broomberg, for some rooibos tea. "This tea will change your life," she says in a proud Israeli accent. "You don’t have to buy the tea, you just have to try it."

Who can say no to someone who is so passionate about a simple little drink?

Apparently, very few. Maslin and Broomberg’s teahouse is fast becoming one of Los Angeles’ places for "the other hot drink."

Rooibos, a low bush with spiky leaves that is grown exclusively in South Africa, is the new drink du jour amongst health-conscious, youth-seeking Angelenos. The organic, caffeine-free tea is rich in minerals and low in tannic acid. And the taste is so sweet, there’s no need to add sugar.

"We only use the needles, not the stems. So it’s not bitter," said Broomberg, who grew up drinking rooibos in his native Capetown.

"Michael courted me with rooibos," Maslin remarked. "When we met, I was mildly depressed. Michael suggested I start drinking the tea. I fell for rooibos and for him," she said refilling my cup with my newfound favorite, rooibos with vanilla Madagascar and a touch of milk.

In addition to the vanilla, Rooibos Tea House sells rooibos with black cumin seeds, rooibos chai and rooibos natural and honeybush tea in loose-leaf form, tea bags or bulk (for making iced tea). The shop makes beautiful treasure chest-shaped gift baskets, sponsors art shows and free entertainment and hosts twice-monthly raw food dinners. Their tea is certified kosher by a South African beit din, said Maslin, who attends the Yemenite Synagogue Teferet Teman, in the Pico-Robertson area.

Maslin and Broomberg founded African Red Tea Imports two years ago to distribute the finest rooibos tea to mass markets like Trader Joe’s, Ralphs and Pavillions, among others. They opened The Rooibos Tea House last April to educate people about the tea and provide them with a calming place to enjoy it.

For Rosh Hashana, Maslin suggests baking a spicy tea cake or a date and nut loaf using rooibos, but any recipe can be made with the red tea. You simply replace any liquid ingredient the recipe calls for with an equal amount of rooibos tea, she said.

"Preparing High Holiday food with our rooibos tea not only adds valuable nutrition, it enriches the beautiful taste," said Maslin, touching the sizable silver mezuzah around her neck.

Spicy Tea Cake With Ginger Cream

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
2 1/2 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rooibos tea
Ginger Butter Cream
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup butter
2 tablespoons hot rooibos tea
Pinch of ginger
3 tablespoons chopped preserved ginger walnuts for garnishing

Cream the sugar and butter very well. Add the beaten eggs and continue to cream well. Sieve the dry ingredients and add the tea and flour mixture alternately to the cream mixture. Stir well for smooth consistency.

Pour the mixture into two greased, lined, sandwich cake tins, 8 inches in diameter. Bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes until done. Wait till cake cools and ice the cake with the cream.

© 2005 The Jewish Journal, All Rights Reserved

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