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South Africa Origin Teas

Herbal Teas:

Line # Name
RB06 Rooibos
RB08 Organic Rooibos
R912204 Mandarin Rooibos


Country Statistics:
Area: 758,018 sq mi (1,219,912 sq km)

Capital: Pretoria
Main Cities: Cape Town, Maseru, Gaborone, Maputo, Mbabane and Bloemfontein
Languages: IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Afrikaans, English, Other Dialects
Religions: Christian, Muslim, Indigenous

map of South Africa

Overview of South Africa's Tea Production

History Of Rooibos

After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule.

Overview of South Africa's Tea ProductionRooibos (pronounced Roy-Bus) is Afrikaans for 'red bush’ and it is a member of the legume family of plants, and is commonly used to make a tisane (herbal tea). It belongs to the Aspalathus plant group, which consists of more than 200 species originating in the Cedarberg mountains of South Africa (rooibos grows exclusively in the Cedarberg Mountain region and around Clanwilliam and Citrusdal, due to the specific climatic and geological conditions of the region).

Rooibos was originally discovered and used as an herbal medicine by the Khoisan tribes they soon learned that the fine, needle-like leaves of the rooibos plant also made a tasty, aromatic tea. Harvesting the wild-growing plants they would then chop the leaves with an axe and bruise them with hammers, leaving the small needle-like leaves to ferment in heaps, before drying in the sun. During the plant's ripening process, the leaves develop a reddish brown color, explaining why it is referred to as "red bush." The tea is produced in the same way today, although much of the process is now mechanized.
In 1904, a Russian immigrant, Benjamin Ginsberg, was the first to begin trading with the tribe's for the herb. In 1930 rooibos started to receive more recognition when Dr. Pieter Le Fras Nortier, a nature lover and doctor, began promoting its therapeutic benefits. While researching the product, he also encouraged widespread, systematic growing and cultivation of the herb.

Rooibos Cultivation & Processing

It grows erect, up to 1.5 m (about 5 feet) in height. It has a single basal stem that divides just above the ground surface into multiple thin branches that carry bright green, needle-like leaves of about 10—40 mm (0.4—1.6 inches) in length. The plant produces small yellow flowers in spring through early summer, and each flower generates a one-seeded leguminous fruit. Rooibos has adapted to coarse, nutrient-poor, acidic soil and hot, dry summers.

Large-scale cultivation and industrial processing of the plant started during the 1930s. When rooibos is cultivated commercially, the needle-like leaves and stems are usually harvested in the summer, which corresponds to January to March in South Africa. The plants are cut to about 30 cm (1 foot) from the ground at harvest time and begin another major growth cycle the following spring. The harvested rooibos is processed two different ways, producing two types of tea. The green leaves and stems are either 1. bruised and oxidized or 2. immediately dried to prevent oxidation. The traditional fermented tea is processed today in much the same way as the indigenous people processed it hundreds of years ago, including the sun-drying step, but the tools are more sophisticated now.

The fermented type is called red tea because oxidation turns the leaves and the resulting tea a rich orange/red color; this distinctive color led to the Afrikaans name rooibos, which means "red bush."
The unfermented type, often called green rooibos, contains higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants because fermented rooibos loses some antioxidants during the fermentation process. The unfermented type was developed to maximize antioxidant levels in response to recent interest in the health benefits associated with the antioxidants found in Camellia sinensis teas. Unfermented rooibos tea is a tan/yellow color rather than the rich reddish color of fermented rooibos. Both types of rooibos tea are available plain or flavored, loose or in tea bags, organic or conventionally grown.

Rooibos Tea

Rooibos is graded according to color, flavor, and cut length, with the highest grade labeled "super-grade." The tea has a smooth, non-bitter flavor that is pleasant hot or chilled. The un-oxidated variety has a very mild "green" taste reminiscent of green tea but without the astringency; the fermented type is quite different, with a stronger sweet and fruity taste. The mild flavor of rooibos has made it popular in multi-ingredient herbal tea blends.

Brewing Rooibos Tea

Rooibos is often marketed as red tea. It is then boiled or steeped like tea to make a beverage that is enjoyed both hot and cold. In its native South Africa, many people consume it with milk and usually sugar, similar to the British tradition of drinking black tea with milk. Rooibos tea should be steeped or brewed with boiling water for a minimum of 5 minutes to release the flavor and the valuable antioxidants and minerals. Experts suggest that brewing Rooibos for 10 minutes or longer will increase the antioxidant content of the tea by 30%. After this, the tea can be used immediately or stored.