Rooibee Red Tea, there’s no place like home.


For a couple of years now Derby City’s own Rooibee Red Tea has been creeping into your life as a healthy, certified organic, naturally caffeine free, locally produced alternative beverage. Now they can add award-winning to the list.

Starting as a farmer’s market novelty and growing into a burgeoning Louisville-based beverage company currently selling around 2,000 cases a month, Rooibee Red’s creative inception came by way of the halls of Brown Forman, where eventual company founder Jeff Stum was tinkering on new cocktail mixes with an exotic South African tea known as rooibos. Fast forward to 2011 and rooibos tea has gained in notoriety amongst Americans (you can now buy it loose-leaf in your grocery story) but Rooibee Red Tea proudly boasts its continued status as the only full line of bottled rooibos teas in the country.

Known to some as the official drink of South Africa, rooibos grows naturally caffeine free, is high in antioxidants and sports a faint sweetness as opposed to the bitterness of other teas. Rooibee Red’s Chris Schulz spoke of the beverage’s philosophy of healthfulness, it’s emphasis on sustainability and its organic cane sugar, but was quick to note, “really, we tend to bury the lead because most importantly it tastes great.” Discerning readers will have to judge the brand’s seven varieties for themselves, but at least one objective opinion can be taken into account, as Rooibee Red Tea’s Watermelon Mint has recently taken the gold medal for flavored herbal tea at the 2011 North American Tea Championships. According to Schulz, Watermelon Mint is also the company’s best selling product.

Rooibee Red is currently available at more than 80 locations throughout the Louisville area, including Paul’s Fruit Market, Shiraz, Quill’s, Vint (formerly Java Brewing Co.) and Lotsa Pasta, but its producers have no intention of stopping there. Indeed, Rooibee has already expanded to a number of locations in Lexington and the rest of Kentucky, with a handful of additional outlets in Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri. Chris Shulz said of the company’s expansion plans that developing brand awareness in regional cities like Nashville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis was a priority, with hope that dedicated locals in those areas will be able to better inform Rooibee Red as to the ideal venues for its product. The company currently relies on Whole Foods grocery as a means of breaking into new markets, whose perceived image of quality helps to reach out to the beverage’s key demographic, stated as women ages 18 to 44.

Whether or not you’ve tried Rooibee Red as of yet, it’s safe to say you’ll be seeing a lot more of it. Newly introduced four-packs have allowed the product to move into more and more grocery store-type settings and as a fun aside the brand will also be appearing in the independent comedy ‘Tan Lines’, which just wrapped filming in Louisville this past week. (In another strange movie tie-in, apparently Louisville-born actress Jennifer Lawrence is also a fan) Those interested in learning more about Rooibee Red Tea can do so at the company’s website and in a special event this Friday (June 24) Rooibee Red will be offering original cocktails for the Edgehill Avenue album release party at Headliners Music Hall.