Put tea into festivity these holidays – it’s economical, healthy and fun!

It’s no secret that Christmas is the most expensive holiday of the year, and with fewer employers paying bonuses, South Africans will need to find creative ways to make their budgets stretch.

The cost-of-living crisis and rising interest rates have forced many families to reassess their finances and cut back on spending. This comes in the wake of record-high food inflation, last seen in 2009. 

Economists say shoppers are likely to prioritise food and drinks that offer more value for money. 

According to a survey on festive season expenses conducted by short-term lender, Wonga SA, consumers spend about a third of their Christmas budget on food and drinks, which equates to roughly R2 000 per person. 

When browsing supermarket shelves, tea is by far still the cheapest thirst quencher.

Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council (SARC) says on average, a cup of Rooibos will cost you between 45c and 55c, compared to ± R2.59 for the same measure of soft drinks. 

“While most food products experienced steep inflationary increases this year, Rooibos has been relatively unaffected. The stabilisation of Rooibos prices post the drought in 2016 has played the biggest role, with the readiness of supply driving more favourable pricing of the raw material.” 

Aside from being one of the best-bang-for-buck beverages, Rooibos is also healthy, caffeine-free and naturally sweet, so there’s no need for sugar or additional sweeteners. The fact that it’s also calorie-free makes it appealing to those wanting to keep their weight in check compared to fizzy drinks that contain an average of 100 calories per 250ml. Rooibos also goes a long way, and only takes three tea bags to make a pot of Rooibos, which can be enjoyed by a party of six. 

Another plus is that it’s locally produced and buying local helps our economy. It contributes to building thriving communities and is better for the environment since locally produced products tend to carry a lower carbon footprint. 

Du Toit says when we buy local, we don’t only look after our own wallets, but we support fellow South Africans in their entrepreneurial pursuits, which provide work for thousands.  

“With the festive season almost upon us, it also gives us time to slow down and indulge in fabulous food and drinks that we don’t always get a chance to lovingly prepare and savour during the busy year. Whether you’re planning a family lunch or dinner, local is always lekker, so why not make Rooibos part of the festivities? It adds a delicious flavour twist to old favourites, and offers a refreshing lift between meals whether served as hot or iced tea, beside the pool, or lazing on a beach.”

Try any of these Rooibos-inspired recipes that’s sure to make your Christmas extra merry:


Gammon with rich Rooibos marinade  

1,5 kg smoked gammon, skin on 


30 ml (2 T) Dijon mustard

30 ml (2 T) soft brown sugar

30 ml (2 T) olive oil

5 ml (1t) fresh thyme, chopped


3-4 chillies, chopped 

90 ml (6 T) apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar 

8-10 sprigs thyme

750 ml (3 c) strong rooibos tea 

60 ml (1¼ c) brown sugar 


1-2 whole heads garlic, halved 

4 onions, peeled and quartered 

Maldon salt and freshly ground mixed peppercorns

4 red and green apples, quartered (leave skin on)

180 ml (¾ c) brown sugar

Dijon mustard, plain yoghurt and lemon juice to prepare gravy

Preheat the oven to 160°C.


Mix all the ingredients for the spread and rub all over the meat. Place the meat skin side down in a casserole dish with a lid. 


Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the meat. Marinate for 45 minutes. 


Add the rest of the ingredients except the apples, half the sugar and plain yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and oven bake for 1,5 hours. Turn the meat skin side up; add the apples, sprinkle with the rest of the brown sugar and oven bake for another 45 minutes till the meat is tender and slightly sticky. Pour off the pan juices and remove the meat. Place the meat on a serving platter and rest for at least 10 minutes. Turn on the oven grill and heat until the apples are slightly caramelized. Pour the pan juices into a saucepan, add about 15 ml (1 T) more mustard and boil down till reduced, stir in a dollop of plain yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice and serve with the meat and apples.


Use a deboned and rolled shoulder or leg of pork instead of the gammon. Pears can be used instead of the apples.

The meat can also be cooked in a saucepan on top of the stove and then just caramelized in the oven to brown the skin of the meat and the apples.

Serves 6

Rooibos dumplings 


1 litre (4 c) strong rooibos tea 

250 ml (1 c) orange juice (optional)

375 ml (1,5 c) sugar

10 ml (2 t) finely grated lemon peel 

2 clementines or small oranges, sliced


45 ml (3 T) butter 

30 ml (2 T) golden syrup 

125 ml (1/2 c) mixed citrus peel (optional)

500 ml (2 c) cake flour 

1 ml (¼ t) salt 

10 ml (2 t) bicarbonate of soda 

125 ml (1/2 c) luke-warm milk 

Greek yoghurt to serve 

Mint leaves for garnish


Boil together the rooibos tea, orange juice, sugar  and lemon rind. Add the orange slices and boil for 5 minutes. Keep aside. 


Melt the butter and golden syrup. Add the flour and salt. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the milk and add to the flour mixture. Stir till mixed. Bring the syrup to the boil again and add spoonfuls of the dough to the syrup. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 40-60 minutes until the dough is cooked. Spoon into pudding bowls and serve with yoghurt. Garnish with strips of mint leaves.

Serves 6-8 


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Rooibos-infused Panna Cotta with fruit compoté


4 – 6 bags rooibos tea

500 ml (2 c) full cream milk 

45 ml (3 t) water

20 ml (4 T) gelatine 

250 ml (1 c) cream

250 ml (1 c) plain yoghurt 

Mint leaves 

125 ml (½ c) sugar

Spray 10-12 espresso cups with cooking spray.

Place the tea bags in the milk and heat until lukewarm. Cool. Remove the tea bags.

Sprinkle the gelatine over the water and leave to sponge. Melt in the microwave oven or over boiling water. Mix with the cream and add to the milk together with the yoghurt. Mix well with a wire whisk. Pour into the prepared cups and place overnight in the refrigerator till set. Once set, turn out onto a plate.

Fruit compoté

Heat 250 ml (1c) rooibos tea and 60 ml (¼ c) rosé wine with 125 ml (1/2 c) sugar till the sugar is dissolved. Add 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise and bring to the boil.  Cut 2 guavas and 1 pear into slices and add to the liquid. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  

Serve warm or cold with the Panna Cottas. Garnish with granadilla and mint leaves

Makes 10 -12 Panna Cottas.

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Mince pies with a touch of Rooibos


1 sachet (500 g) dried fruit cake mix

160 ml (2/3 c) white sugar 

250 ml (1 c) rooibos tea 

125 ml (½ c) brandy 


250 g butter or margarine 

250 ml (1 c) caster sugar 

2 extra-large eggs 

15 ml (1 T) vanilla essence 

4 x 250 ml (4 c) cake flour 

20 ml (4 t) baking powder 

2 ml (½ t) salt 

Caster sugar

Icing sugar and food dust to decorate 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. 

Spray 2 cup cake tins (12 hollows each) with cooking spray.


Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook for at least 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Cool.


Cream the butter and sugar; add the eggs, one at a time and beat well with an electric beater. Add the vanilla essence. Sift together the dry ingredients; add to the butter mixture and mix to make a soft dough. Divide in half and rest for 10 minutes. Roll out one half till about 2 mm thick. Press out circles, about 10 cm and line each hollow of the cup cake tins. Place in the refrigerator. Fill each with the filling. Roll out the other half of the dough and cut out stars or trees with a cookie cutter. Place on top of the filling and sprinkle with a little caster sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes till done and golden brown. Cool and dust with icing sugar and food dust. Keep in an airtight container.


Press half the dough in a baking sheet and spread over the filling. Grate the rest of the dough on top of the filling and bake for about 20-25 minutes till golden brown. Cut into squares.


Fuse festive cocktails with Rooibos for a traditional or modern twist. Think Rooibos-infused fruit-based punches (with or without alcohol) or refreshing flavour bursts like Rooibos with apple Mojito. A tall glass of chilled iced Rooibos is also cleansing and helps the stomach to digest after an overindulgent feast, making it the perfect post-Christmas lunch or dinner pick-me-up. It’s quick, easy and economical with an endless combination of flavours. Simply choose your favourite Rooibos blend, add some ice and your choice of fruit or herbs and voila!

If you’re looking for a low or non-alcoholic alternative, try Rooibos kombucha for an elegant change. Fermented from sweetened Rooibos/tea to which a culture or bacteria and yeast is added, the kombucha process produces a fizzy, just shy of sweet taste, which can vary in floral, herbal or fruity notes. It’s reminiscent of sparkling apple cider with a complex flavour profile that’s tangy and refreshing – ideal for hot South African summers.

Here follows a few Rooibos-infused drinks options:

Rooibos tea punch


  • 500ml strong Rooibos tea, cooled 
  • 500ml peach juice 
  • At least 100ml vodka 
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced 
  • Handful fresh mint leaves 
  • 2 peaches, thinly sliced 


  • Combine all the ingredients in a large jug and stir well
  • Serve over ice



  • 750ml strong, cold Rooibos 
  • 1litre apple juice 
  • 1litre granadilla or passion fruit juice 
  • 1litre strawberry juice 
  • 2 bottles (750m) of sparkling red grape juice 
  • 1 punnet of strawberries, sliced 
  • 1 orange, sliced 
  • Fresh mint leaves 


  • Mix Rooibos, apple, granadilla and strawberry juices and chill. 
  • Add chilled sparkling grape juice. 
  • Garnish with strawberries, orange and mint. 

Steep, sip and be merry!