The South African Rooibos (pronounced “Roy-bus”), or “red bush” plant produces needle-like leaves that have been used for tea by the indigenous people of South Africa for centuries. This “red tea” has a unique, naturally sweet taste with hints of toffee, cherry and vanilla. The tea’s natural tannic properties moderate the sweetness of the honey that makes up this spiced mead. In many languages, chai is the word for tea, but in many Western languages the word “Chai” has been used to refer to black tea steeped with a mixture of aromatic indian spices such as ginger, cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves.
This mead recipe combines the traditional South African Rooibos tea with the South Asian spicing techniques to create a delightful sweet mead. It is a cold weather mead that pairs nicely with red meat, berries, and holiday desserts.
Recipe Yields 2 gallons
- 9 Cups Honey (6.75 lbs)
- 4 Tsp Rooibos Tea
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 tsp Ground Ginger
- 6 Cloves
- 6 Cardamon Seeds
- 1 oz Cascade Pellet Hops
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
- 2.5 g Wine Yeast (Red Star Cote des Blancs)
- In a medium brew pot (4 gallon) bring 2 gallons of water to a simmer.
- Slowly add the honey while stirring continuously so the honey dissolves without burning on the bottom of the pot.
- Bring the must back to a simmer while letting all the honey dissolve. Add the hop pellets, Cardamon Seeds, Cloves, Ginger and Cinnamon Sticks contained in a muslin bag.
- Simmer for 20 minutes while preparing the tea and continually skim any white foamy scum that forms on the surface.
- To prepare the tea, bring 16 oz of water to a boil, and remove from heat. Add the Rooibos and let steep for 3 minutes.
- Strain the tea and add to the brew pot along with the Vanilla and Yeast Nutrient.
- Submerge the brew pot in an ice bath, or cool through a worth chiller to bring the must to around 70 degrees.
- Add the must to a 3 gallon carboy, aerate, and pitch the yeast. Make sure you re-hydrate dry yeast before pitching.
- Seal carboy with bung and airlock and store in a dark place at a temperature of about 70 degrees.
- After 3 weeks, with a siphon, re-rack the mead into two sanitized 1 gallon jugs.
- After 2 weeks, re-rack, then let age for 6 months.
- Serve chilled, and enjoy!
how big is a cinnamon stick?
I suppose it’s about about 3-4″
I am assuming that the ground ginger is added at the same time as the cinnamon etc. Can I substitute for fresh ginger? obviously increasing the amount to compensate for it being fresh.
Also, I like a dry drink. Can I substitute a champagne yeast to give a higher alcohol content and drier finish?
This is my 1st attempt at mead making and I have been all over the web looking for recipes. Of all the sites this one stands out. It’s easy to reference and so well put together.
Thanks for the kind words about the site. I’ve really put a lot of effort into it and its great to hear that it’s resonating with readers!
Yes, ginger goes in with the rest of the spices. Feel free to substitute with fresh ginger. I love using fresh ginger (i just didn’t have any in the kitchen when I decided to make this). Use a bit more of the fresh to get the ginger flavor in there. You can also put a little in the secondary fermentor for added fresh ginger notes.
I’m just about to re-rack into 1 gallon carboys and am wondering- after 2 weeks could I bottle this for the remainder of the 6 months? If not, would I be able to bottle it after the 6 months?
Thanks in advance!
Made this last August and first tried it in February. It’s out of this world! Wish I’d made twice as much. Thanks for writing such a clear recipe!
glad you liked it PK! This has definitely been one of my favorites. pretty unique flavor.
I love the idea of trying to make this mead but my question is as much as I love mead I hate beer so how beer like dose the addition of the hops make this mead and can it be made without the hops? thank you arran
It definitely drinks more like a mead than a beer (it doesn’t really taste much like beer at all) – It’ll work fine without hops as well. If you end up making it, would love to hear what you think of the results!
G’day everyone from Australia,
I saw this recipe and made something very similar and it has turned out amazing! My brother always bangs on about rooibis tea with honey and vanilla so I thought I’d knock up a mead for him since we both love a drink (port or beer mostly for him beer and mead for me)
Here’s my ingredients straight from my brew log for a 15L/ 3.96Gal batch ;
-5.6 kg/4L/12.34lb rainforest flower honey (tropical Aus)
-10L/ 2.64gal spring water
-1 3″ cinnamon quill
-2 of the best quality vanilla beans you can get (3 might have gone better) split open and sort of scraped up to loosen the seeds
– 6 or so 20¢ or qtr size bits of fresh cut ginger
– 4 heaped Tbsp of quality rooibis tea boiled and strained.
-2 1/2 Tbsp raw rooibis tea added raw straight to the must
– (bit rough) about a handful or half a 50g pack of mangrove Jacks brand cascade hops pellets
– Mangrove Jacks SN9 premium wine yeast
Now I didn’t add nutrients or degass or oxygenate or stir or anything during the first few days. If you did it may even turn out better but as is it’s beautifuly smooth and a little sweet with excellent honey, tea and vanilla flavours. Hops and tea flavour could be confused.
But at 5 weeks old it’s practically drinkable and quite nice which is rare to me.
I stirred to degass at 12 days (redundant?)
I racked off lees at 20 days
And added one tsp of wine nutrient
I added bentonite at 26 days and taste tested and took a reading at 37 days
So about 14%
Feel free to ask me for anymore detailed information.
Thanks for sharing. Sounds amazing!
Hello from South Africa. Just a tip, you pronounce rooibos as Roy-boss, not bus.
Thanks for the clarification Adriaan!
Hi. As a newbie to making mead (just bottled a first batch.) If I only want to make a gallon can I just cut the recipe in half? Is it the same for all meads?
Love the website and recipe ideas.
You should be good to cut the recipe based on your desired output.