I’d never heard of “red espresso” — at all — until this week. And in just the last few days I’m hearing about it, well… lotsa places. Which makes me wonder… just what the heck is it? And why am I hearing about it now?Red Espresso (rooibos tea)

First of all, apparently red espresso isn’t espresso at all, which is to say, it’s not coffee. It’s tea. Well, that’s not exactly true, either. It’s Rooibos tea, or South African redbush tea, which isn’t exactly tea in that it’s not Camellia sinensis but a piney, low-growing shrub (Aspalathus linearis) that grows only in the Western Cape of South Africa. Its leaves are fermented oxidized, like black tea, but it has no caffeine.

And the espresso part? Evidently folks are using espresso machines to brew the Rooibos and the resulting cup exhibits much of the same character as espresso coffee, including crema. Or something like it.

If I recall, a few years back at the Midwest Barista Championships, one of Barry’s baristas had a specialty drink that paired a Kenya-based espresso blend with tea… and that may have been a rooibos tea. It was a strange but tasty brew… but there was *definitely* no tea in the portafilter, which would have been strictly against competition rules. (And surely you’d have to scrub the hell out of your portafilter afterwards!)

So… anybody been pulling shots of red espresso? Do tell!

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