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Try some red tea!

I come from a family of tea drinkers.

My grandmother taught me to drink what she termed "English tea." She poured half a cup of ordinary black tea, brewed in her brown teapot. Then she added a spoonful of sugar and filled the cup with milk. She and my mother drank their tea with nothing but a bit of sugar in it, and so did I when I grew older. Now I don't use the sugar.

In my childhood, there weren't a lot of tea choices. Almost everyone picked up a box of black tea at the grocery store. We heard Arthur Godfrey tell us the merits of Lipton Tea on his radio show.

Now the tea aisles offer myriad choices. We have black tea, green tea, white tea, herbal tea, fruit infusions, spiced teas, and more. Health-food articles expound on the reasons we should drink more green tea. Its many health benefits have brought it to the top of the tea list.

I know people who swallow green tea extract pills instead of brewing it. They know that green tea is full of antioxidants, but they really don't care for the taste. I must agree about the taste of green tea. To me, it doesn't have much flavor, no matter how long it steeps. I find it bland when compared to black tea.

But I've discovered another kind of tea whose health benefits are numerous, and it's far more appealing in taste than green. Rooibos (ROY-boss) tea is caffeine-free and herbal. It comes from the aspalathus lineans plant, which grows in the Western Cape area of South Africa. The green leaves turn red as they oxidize after picking. When brewed, the tea has a deep red color, so it also goes by the name "red tea."

Friends in South Africa told me that many in their country drink it for health benefits but also enjoy the slightly nutty, smooth taste. It has fewer tannins than other teas. It may be mixed with milk and sugar or left plain, which is my preference. It's ideal for people who are prone to kidney stones, as it contains no oxalic acid.

Rooibos tea helps acid reflux, is good for babies with colic, and even works on the skin for itchy allergies and sunburn. Whenever my stomach is slightly upset or crampy, I reach for the rooibos. Nine times out of 10, it soothes the beasties. Producers also claim that red tea helps arthritis. Scientists tell us it's loaded with antioxidants.

I don't promise miracles, but I do urge you to give this healthful, tasty tea a try. Many specialty shops carry it, but so do most grocery stores. Look in the tea aisle for the box marked either "rooibos" or "red" tea. Brew as you would any other tea, making sure to allow time for it to steep well. Drink it for health benefits or just because it tastes good.