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Rooibos: The Wonder Herb

As a Cape Town local, I am so proud to share that Rooibos is only grown in the Western Cape! It all started when local inhabitants of the Cederberg region first discovered that Rooibos leaves can be brewed as a refreshing drink, more than 300 years ago. They would use axes to harvest the plant and then bruise the leaves with hammers, before leaving them to ferment and later dry in the sun. Today the harvesting and processing of this indigenous herb is done in much the same way, only using more advanced equipment.

Crossing the Seas

Early Cape-Dutch settlers started drinking Rooibos tea as a cheaper alternative to an expensive black tea from Europe. In 1772, European botanist, Carl Thunberg, visited the Cape to report on the Rooibos plant and its tea variant. In 1904, Russian immigrant, Benjamin Ginsberg, recognised the potential of this unique tea and started trading with Rooibos tea, locally and internationally. This made him the first-ever exporter of Rooibos and still today, the Ginsberg family continues to market Rooibos.

Revealing Rooibos Research

In the early 1900s, Dr Le Fras Nortier started researching the medicinal value and agricultural potential of Rooibos, since the doctor and nature-lover in him was drawn to this mysterious and aromatic tea. Still, the commercial growing of Rooibos only started in the 1930’s.

Dr Annique Theron

In 1968, Annique founder, Dr Annique Theron, put the spotlight on Rooibos with her claim that it soothed away her baby’s colic. She published a book on her findings called “Allergies: An Amazing Discovery” and continued to make huge strides in the promotion of the health benefits of Rooibos. In the 1980’s Japanese and American scientists found a powerful and stable antioxidant called superoxide dismutase in Rooibos tea. In 1995 Infruitec, a South African research company, as well as Dr Charlene Marais of the University of the Free State, found and verified that Rooibos tea did indeed have the following properties:

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 and it has no kilojoules.

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