Rooibos Tea is one of South Africa’s most valued natural treasures, but besides being a healthy homegrown tea, how much do you really know about it?
This Heritage Month, the SA Rooibos Council (SARC) has embarked on a campaign to create greater public awareness of Rooibos. The campaign answers questions like “Where does Rooibos come from?”, “What makes Rooibos so unique?” and “How to become a true Rooibos connoisseur?”.
Here are 10 Rooibos Tea facts that you might not have known:
1. The Rooibus bush is covered in tiny yellow flowers
1. This happens every spring. After pollination a seedpod is formed with a single seed inside.
2. Rooibos Seeds are tiny
Seeds are sown between February and March each year. It takes roughly about 18 months before the bush can be harvested for the first time.
3. Rooibos really only grows in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape province in South Africa
It’s NOT a myth. Farmers have tried to grow it elsewhere in the world, but the climate, soil and conditions just aren’t conducive. It’s almost like nature intended it that way.
4. The purity of Rooibos Tea is a tightly controlled process
From the time the crop is harvested to when it is pasteurised, various tests are conducted to guarantee that every single cup (no matter which brand you drink) is 100% pure.
5. Once the Rooibos crop has been harvested, it is cut to lengths of between 1.5mm and 5mm
The cuttings are bruised and moistened to 60%. After this fermentation takes place for 8 to 12 hours at a temperature of between 34°C – 38°C.
During this process the characteristic aroma and red colour develops. Rooibos is then spread thinly on concrete drying yards to dry. Once this process is complete, the tea is sorted and graded by length, colour, flavour and taste before being pasteurised by steam.
6. There are several different Rooibos grades
The ‘superior long cut’ is ideal for blending with pieces of fruit and flowers. An ‘extra fine cut’ lends itself for use in confectionary and espressos. A ‘super cut’ is mostly used in a standard Rooibos tea bag. This makes the tea softer in taste and helps to release more active substances in the cup.
7. Each cup of Rooibos tea is packed with healthy flavonoids
This includes aspalathin – a powerful antioxidant unique to the plant. Rooibos is also caffeine-free, low in tannins and contains no fat or proteins. This means that it’s kilojoule-free. Up to six cups can be enjoyed daily.
8. Rooibos grows up to 1.5m in height
The Rooibos bush has thin branches that carry bright green, needle-like leaves. Like the people of South Africa, Rooibos is a hardy shrub that can survive the toughest of conditions.
9. In 2014, Rooibos received geographical indicator (GI) status
This means that tea can only be called Rooibos if it comes from a defined area in the Cederberg and surrounds. It’s a proudly South African product, which is exported to more than 30 countries across the globe.
10. This year, Rooibos tea celebrates its 115th anniversary as a branded product
The first Rooibos brand was launched by Benjamin Ginsberg from his general dealer shop in Clanwilliam and is still sold today.
Nicie Vorster, spokesperson for the SARC says for generations, Rooibos tea has been a favourite among South Africans and remains an important economic resource for the country.
As a way to preserve the culture and heritage of Rooibos, he encourages everyone to become more intimately acquainted with Rooibos this Heritage Month by making a point of visiting the Cederberg – the heartland of Rooibos – where it’s history and culture really come to life! To learn more about Rooibos this Heritage Month, visit this link.
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