Your Cup of Tea 4: Rooibos

YUM Eat Cafe - teaThe coming weeks we introduce you to about 25 different natural health teas (without added flavours and other additives). Here the third part of the introduction. All teas at Yum Eat Cafe are served in-fusion.

A cup of South African Rooibos Tea is an excellent start of this year.

roodbos-shangrilaIn 1772, Swedish naturalist Carl Thunberg noted, “the country people made tea” from a plant related to rooibos or redbush. Traditionally, the local people would climb the mountains and cut the fine, needle-like leaves from wild rooibos plants. They then rolled the bunches of leaves into hessian bags and brought them down the steep slopes using donkeys. The leaves were then chopped with axes and bruised with hammers, before being left to dry in the sun.

Dutch settlers to the Cape learned to drink rooibos as an alternative to black tea, an expensive commodity for the settlers who relied on supply ships from Europe.

In 1904, Benjamin Ginsberg ran a variety of experiments at Rondegat Farm, finally curing rooibos. He simulated the traditional Chinese method of making Keemun by fermenting the tea in barrels. The major hurdle in growing rooibos tea commercially was that farmers could not germinate the rooibos tea seeds. The seeds were hard to find and impossible to germinate commercially.

In 1930 District Surgeon and botanist Dr Pieter Le Fras Nortier Rhodes scholar  recognising the valuable medicinal and curative properties of rooibos tea, began conducting experiments with the cultivation of the rooibos tea plant. Dr Nortier also saw the vast commercial potential the tea held for the region.

rooibos-moccaDr Nortier cultivated the first plants at Clanwilliam on his farm Eastside and on the farm Klein Kliphuis. The tiny seeds were very difficult to come by. Dr Nortier paid the local villagers £5 per matchbox of seeds collected. An aged Khoi woman found an unusual seed source: having chanced upon ants dragging seed, she followed them back to their nest and, on breaking it open, found a granary. Dr. Nortier’s research was ultimately successful and he subsequently showed all the local farmers how to germinate their own seeds. The secret lay in scarifying the seed pods. Dr Nortier placed a layer of seeds between two mill stones and ground away some of the seed pod wall. Thereafter the seeds were easily propagated. Over the next decade the price of seeds soared to an astounding £80 a pound, the most expensive vegetable seed in the world, as farmers rushed to plant rooibos tea. Today, the seed is gathered by special sifting processes. Dr Nortier is today accepted as the father of the rooibos tea industry. Thanks to his research, rooibos tea, originally just an indigenous drink, became an iconic national beverage and then a globalized commodity recognised for its unique health properties. Rooibos tea production is today the economic mainstay of the Clanwilliam district. In 1948 The University of Stellenbosch awarded Dr Nortier an Honorary Doctorate D.Sc (Agria) in recognition for his valuable contribution to South African agriculture.

Yum Eat Cafe serves two different Rooibos teas each with its own distinctive taste; Rooibos Mocca and Rooibos Shangrila.

Advertisements

4 comments on “Your Cup of Tea 4: Rooibos

  1. Great post! Wishing you all at the yumeatcafe amost wonderful 2016 filled with joy, happiness, health and laughter and looking forward to see all that YUMIIII food posts! Happy New Year to you all! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s