More than 300 years ago, Rooibos was a traditional drink of the indigenous inhabitants of the Clanwilliam region in the Western Cape, who harvested the leaves and stems of the local Aspalathus linearis plant and produced an aromatic herbal tea by bruising the spiky leaves with wooden hammers and drying the fermented product in the sun.Early Dutch settlers at the Cape started drinking Rooibos as an alternative to the very expensive black tea from Europe. This process was documented in 1772 by botanist Carl Humberg.
In 1904, realising the market potential of this unique tea, Benjamin Ginsburg, a Russian immigrant whose family had been involved in the tea industry in Tsarist Russia for centuries, started packing and selling the red ‘Mountain tea’.
Although the Rooibos group consists of red, ash-coloured, black and red-brown tea varieties, the former was the most sought-after and today’s Carmien Rooibos tea stems from this Nortiera sub-genus.
In the early 20th Century, Rooibos captured the imagination of medical doctor and nature lover Dr Le Fras Nortier. Drawn by this mysterious and aromatic tea, he started researching its medicinal value and agricultural potential.
During the 1930’s, the popularity of this healthy herbal drink spread throughout the Cape after Pieter le Fras Nortier, a Clanwilliam medical doctor and keen amateur botanist, discovered that the Rooibos plant could be cultivated as an agricultural product in plantations.
In 1968 Mrs Annekie Theron, a South African mother struggling with an allergic infant, put the spotlight on Rooibos with her claims that it soothed away her baby’s colic. She published a book on her findings called “Allergies: An Amazing Discovery” and went on to launch a full range of health and skin care products with Rooibos as the basic ingredient.
In 1984 Rooibos made headlines in Japan as an anti-ageing product.
Green Rooibos was developed in 1995 by the Agricultural Research Council (Infruitec) in South Africa.
A new Rooibos innovation in the form of an espresso, the first tea espresso in the world, was introduced to coffee shops and retail outlets during 2006.
Medical science is only just beginning to discover the many health advantages of rooibos tea and ongoing research confirms its multiple uses and benefits. Today, the fame of Rooibos has spread far beyond the borders of South Africa and is firmly established in the international market. In fact, it has proven to be so popular that it is currently exported to some 135 countries around the globe.
South Africa produces some15 000 - 20 000 tons of Rooibos tea per year, with 6 000 tons being consumed locally and the balance being exported. In South Africa, rooibos tea occupies approximately 17%-20% of the available shelf space.
Rooibos in General:
- Rooibos is not a true tea, but a herb. The brew made from the dried Rooibos leaves is therefore a herbal infusion (known as a tisane) rather than a tea, but is widely known as Rooibos tea.
- Rooibos has a distinctive colour, flavour and aroma, which differentiates it from most other teas. The flavour can be described as slightly sweet and fruity.
- The vibrant amber colour of Rooibos comes from the natural colour that develops during the post-harvest fermentation (oxidation) process, brought about by natural enzymes in the plant.
- Rooibos is a pure and natural product as it contains no colourants, additives or preservatives.
- Rooibos has no kilojoules.
- Rooibos is available as plain or flavoured tea, as loose leaves or in tea bags. It is often blended with other herbal teas.
- Rooibos is graded according to colour, flavour, and cut length.
- Rooibos ages well and can be stored for long periods without any deterioration in quality, flavour and taste.
- In many countries Rooibos is enjoyed as a hot or cold beverage without milk, with or without sweeteners. Many South Africans enjoy Rooibos as a hot beverage with milk, sweetened with sugar or honey.
Green Rooibos in General:
- Green Rooibos is made from the same plant as traditional Rooibos. The only difference is in the processing. For traditional Rooibos, the green leaves and stems of the plant are crushed and fermented before drying. The fermentation step is actually an oxidation process brought about by enzymes and chemicals naturally present in the plant. In the case of green Rooibos, the fermentation process is skipped, and the green leaves and stems are dried directly. Different processes are used to prevent oxidation.
- Green (unfermented) Rooibos infusion has a lighter tan/yellow colour and a very mild 'green' taste reminiscent of green tea.
- Green Rooibos has higher levels of antioxidants than traditional fermented Rooibos and demonstrates even higher antioxidant and - in some cases - antimutagenic (cancer-fighting) activities.
- Most green Rooibos is exported. It is used as a tea and in extract form in beauty and nutraceutical products. (A nutraceutical is any food substance that provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.)
The Rooibos Plant:
- The botanical (scientific) name for the Rooibos plant is Aspalathus linearis.
- The plant (and the products made from it) is widely known as Rooibos (pronounced ROI-BOSS). In some countries it is also called 'redbush' or 'African red tea'.
- Rooibos is a fynbos species within the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of only six recognised floral kingdoms of the world.
Regions where Rooibos grows:
- Rooibos is a unique product from a unique area. The plant is indigenous to the Cedarberg region, north-west of Cape Town, where it has been brewed for centuries. This is the only place in the world where Rooibos grows naturally. The region’s hot and dry summers, winter rainfall and coarse sandy soil is ideally suited to the Rooibos plant. The Cedarberg region’s rock art heritage, geology and biodiversity attract scientists from all over the world, It is also a popular adventure and eco-tourism destination.
- Clanwilliam, Graafwater, Citrusdal, Van Rhynsdorp, Nieuwoudtsville and Wupperthal are some of South Africa’s premier Rooibos producing towns.
- Farmers near Wupperthal and Heiveld also harvest some of the wild Rooibos growing there.
Rooibos from Seed to Shop:
Rooibos seeds are sown between February to March and the seedlings transplanted a few months later. It takes about 18 months before plants can be harvested for the first time. Each spring the plant is covered with small yellow flowers. Each flower produces a small legume with a single seed inside. The Rooibos seeds pop out when they are ripe and can therefore be difficult to collect. Early Rooibos farmers got hold of the local wisdom that ants harvested the seeds and that they could collect Rooibos seeds from anthills. Today, most farmers collect the seeds by sifting the sand around the plants.
During the summer harvest, the plants are cut to about 30 cm from the ground. After three to five harvests, the Rooibos plantation must be re-established.
The harvested shoots are bound into sheaves and cut to less than 4 mm. The green leaves and stems are either bruised and fermented in heaps (to produce traditional Rooibos) or immediately dried to prevent oxidation (for green Rooibos). The fermentation process involves oxidation, brought about by enzymes naturally present in the plant. During this process the product changes from green to a deep amber colour and develops its distinctive aroma. After fermentation the Rooibos is spread out to dry in the sun.
The Rooibos is sorted and graded according to length, colour, flavour and aroma. All Rooibos, whether for domestic use or the export market, is steam pasteurized to ensure a product of high microbial quality. The product is then sent in bulk to various packers and exporters in South Africa.
- Rooibos provides income and employment to more than 5 000 people and earns an estimated R500million per year.
- On average, between 15 000 and 20 000 metric tonnes of Rooibos are produced in South Africa per year. South Africans consume about 6 000 tonnes and rest is exported.
- The increasing global demand for Rooibos pushed exports up to more than 6 000 tonnes per annum.
- Rooibos is exported to more than 30 countries across the globe. Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are the biggest importers of Rooibos.
Rooibos Tea Safety:
- Rooibos tea is steam pasteurized before packing.
- The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) of South Africa ensures that all exported Rooibos products pass a plant health and safety inspection and are certified to be free of bacteria and impurities.
Rooibos World Recognition:
- The world’s only museum in honour of Rooibos is in Malaysia, just outside Kuala Lumpur. The Dr Nortier Rooibos Museum opened in June 2000. It is named after Dr Le Fras Nortier, a South African medical doctor who promoted the agricultural potential of Rooibos to the world. The museum showcases the history, production and uses of Rooibos, as well as some of the cultural history of South Africa, especially of the Cape Malays.
- In Japan, Rooibos is called Long Life Tea and considered an anti-ageing beverage. Many Japanese women also believe that Rooibos tea offer special benefits during pregnancy.
Carmien producers are taking the lead in organic Rooibos cultivation and ensuring best farming practices in protecting the natural fauna and flora, endangered wildlife species and scarce natural resources, like water.
Carmien guarantees a total traceable delivery chain with a direct link between the market place and the production base to benefit the workers behind our products as well.
Organically grown Rooibos cultivation ensures that no harmful chemical substances are utilized in the production process thereby preventing detrimental long-term side-effects to your heath and the environment.
Modern agriculture use of artificial fertilisers can displace the natural mineral content of produce. Furthermore, may the plants themselves be genetically manipulated and/or sprayed with chemical pesticides and herbicides. After harvesting, the produce is then processed, where other chemicals (such as preservatives) are added. The end result is food that yields a fraction of the nutrition our grandparents obtained from their food, plus a variety of synthetic chemicals that they were never exposed to.
Organic food is not just a new fad, it is a trend to re-establish natural nutrients in produce by using 'softer' agricultural methods. Organic was never intended to be a health claim, but because organic farmers are not allowed to use chemical and artificial substances, there are many health benefits to eating organic, as well as a number of valid studies to support this.
Organic food contains no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides of other chemical spray residue. Crops and animals absorb the chemicals with which they are sprayed or fed and mankind is next in the food chain to absorb these chemicals. Some break down slowly, and enter the food supply indirectly in our drinking water and through consumption of animal fats. Evidence shows that chemicals in combination may exponentially increase risk. Many of the chemicals used in modern farming have been associated with certain cancers. Organic farmers replace and integrate harsh chemical herbicides and pesticides with time-proven techniques, such as crop rotation and by encouraging the natural predators of pests and the latest techniques of softer natural sprays.
Organics should be more nutritious and better in taste. Organic methods produce wholesome food from healthy soil, food that is typically higher in mineral content than conventionally grown crops.
Organic produce are free from 'post-harvest' additives, preservatives and other chemicals often used to 'doctor' produce to make it look better. Organic farming also means that there is no irradiation of produce.
Organic farming methods are less harmful to the environment. Because organic farmers do not use chemical harsh sprays with poisonous run-off that pollutes the groundwater. This improves the soil ecology and creates enriched, drought-resistant soil. Well managed organic farms usually have less soil erosion and a wider variety of animal species and microorganisms in their fields. Because organic methods protect and restore the health of the environment, they ultimately help create a healthier world. Organics are obtaining more and more shelf space within major supermarkets.
GM and GE FREE:
The food is guaranteed to be free from genetically modified (GM) or genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
Many countries are now growing GM crops. Since this is a relatively new technology we cannot predict what the long-term consequences to our health and the environment would be.
No long-term human safety tests have been conducted on the consumption of genetically engineered food, neither has any thorough environmental assessments been done to see what happens when these plants are released into our ecosystem