I recently spent a few days in the majestic Cedarberg region. It’s well-known for many things – amazing rock formations, ancient rock art, authentic veldskoene, and South Africa’s favourite natural health drink – rooibos. This treasured caffeine-free ‘tea’ is fast gaining popularity throughout the world as a refreshing, healthy, hot or cold drink.
Did you know the following 10 facts about rooibos?
- Rooibos, Aspalathus linearis, is endemic to the mountains of the Cederberg Range. It is found in a radius of 150 kms around Clanwilliam, where sandy soil and Mediterranean climate provide ideal conditions.
- As a fynbos species, it forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest and most diverse of the world’s floral kingdoms.
- The plant has green needle-like leaves and grows to a height of about 1 – 1.5m. It is harvested in the hot summer months between January and April.
- The branches are cut about 30-40 cm above the ground, using a sickle or a harvesting machine, before being bound into bundles and taken to the processing area. Here it is cut into the required lengths and laid out in the processing yard, where water is added, and it is properly aired.
- Bruising is essential for fermentation to release the enzymes essential for oxidation. This is when when the plant changes from green into its distinctive amber-red colour, giving it its name ‘rooibos’ – ‘red bush’ – and it develops its characteristic sweet aroma.
- The higher up in the mountains it is grown, the better the quality of the tea.
- Rooibos was used medicinally by the original inhabitants of the Cederberg region, the Khoi and the Bushmen, who also left behind an amazing amount of rock art throughout the mountainous region.
- Early Dutch settlers started drinking rooibos tea in the late 17th century as an alternative to the more expensive black tea.
- Rooibos tea is low in tannins, caffeine-free and contains abundant antioxidants. It is believed to have many health benefits, including anti-allergenic, antispasmodic and anti-carcinogenic properties.
- Rooibos is often confused with honeybush tea, but they are not the same at all. Honeybush tea comes from a different region, the Klein Karoo, and is not the same plant or drink at all.
Elandsberg Eco Tourism – the best way to learn about Rooibos
This little gem of a farm is an absolute must-see and will form part of our Namaqualand tour whenever possible. All the marvels of the region – fynbos, rooibos and rock formations – are revealed by Chris du Plessis who is passionate about his surroundings and offers tours of the property. He and his lovely wife Annette also have two self-catering units in a wonderful garden setting.