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Rooibos Herbal Tea Latte at Starbucks

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, as you may or may not know, is a bush native to the Western Cape, a province of South Africa. When the leaves of the bush are dried and brewed like tea, the result is a red liquid with a palatable taste that 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.

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, 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, my friend’s mom used to make the most delicious cup of Rooibos Tea ever, and she used milk and sugar liberally, so 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 Julia and Hilda 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.

7 Comments

  • Susan in Maine

    4 January 2009 at 15:36

    I've given up all real tea and coffee drinks forever, including chai (a huge personal favorite at a couple of local (non-Starbucks) shops. Last night while waiting for my daughter and her friend to finish shopping at Target, I tried Starbucks' new Rooibos Vanilla Latte and I loved it! Guess who had another cup this morning?!!

  • B-Man

    8 January 2009 at 15:06

    I just tried this tea for the first time today. Very good… I hope some of it's health benefits made it through commercialization? It seemed too good to be natural.

  • 1Earth

    11 January 2009 at 23:31

    It seems like the Rooibos Tea latte is just now being introduced at Starbucks in the US and Canada – I suddenly have been getting quite a few reads from over there.

    I wouldn't recommend the Starbucks Rooibos Tea latte as a health drink though. It likely still doesn't have any caffeine in it, but the whole zero calorie part of it is obviously blown out of the water with all the milk and sugar they undoubtedly add to the syrup – an vanilla? Wow, that must be a taste sensation.

    Try to find some Rooibos tea at your local supermarket and drink it neat (no milk or sugar, although it's perfectly OK to add those) to compare 🙂 It will be a bit of an acquired taste though, especially if your first encounter was the Starbucks version.

  • Layla

    13 January 2009 at 22:39

    I just had one of those lattes today and they really are delicious. I actually chilled mine in the fridge for a few hours and it tasted kind of like an horchata. Yum!

  • Suffuse Herbal Tea I

    18 December 2010 at 11:51

    If you want the health benefits of rooibos but in latte form try making it yourself. It's a very new product but Rooibos Tea Espresso is available – make it like you would traditional coffee espresso then turn it into your favorite drink. LOADED with antioxidants, naturally caffeine free, and I use agave to sweeten it so it's less calories. YUM!

  • tanya sand

    8 January 2011 at 12:24

    The starbucks rooibos tea is delicious I agree…not keen on the term INJUNS…quite racist and since I am an Indigenous woman of North America I just had to comment on this ignorance. You should be ashamed of yourself at this day and age to have used those choice of words. Neither is it funny or acceptable. Have a nice day.

  • 1Earth

    8 January 2011 at 17:01

    Hi Tanya, thanks for the feedback. I was ignorant indeed. I didn't realise the term is derogatory and causes offense. I do now though, and deleted it. Please accept my apologies.

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