The Rooibos tea plant only grows in one place on Earth: The mountainous Cederberg region of South Africa, 250 km north of Cape Town. It is in this unique area that one finds the special combination of soil and climate necessary for the propagation and cultivation of Aspalathus linearis – the Rooibos plant. No alternative source of supply of this unique product is available anywhere else in the world. The Aspalathus plant group, part of the legume family to which Rooibos belongs, consists of more than 200 species. All occur only in South Africa, however, only Aspalathus linearis has any economic value.

The plant is a shrub-like bush with a central, smooth-barked main stem. Near the soil surface, the stem sub-divides into a number of strong offshoots with delicate side branches. Each of these branches bears (singly or in clusters) soft, needle-like leaves. These are about ten centimetres in length.

In its natural state, the plant’s height at maturity varies from 1 to 1.5 metres, while the height of cultivated plants varies from 0.5 to 1.5 metres. Soil conditions, climate and plant age also affect size.
Rooibos, (sometimes misspelled as Rooibus) is also known as ‘Red Bush’ tea or even just as ‘Red Tea.’

The name comes from its distinctive red colour. Leaves turn a dark reddish-brown as the Rooibos plant ripens in the Cederberg sunshine. The tea itself is a lovely amber colour.

The Japanese often refer to it as ‘Long Life Tea’ because of its remarkable anti-ageing properties. (These have been discovered through extensive clinical research.)
The Rooibos farmer can expect his first harvest after one and a half years, and after three years bushes should be in full production. Harvest takes place in summer (from January till around May). Branches are cut and transported to the certified production lines where they are cut to pieces of about 3-5 mm in length.

Cut stalks are wet thoroughly and bruised, after which they are placed in fermentation heaps and allowed to sweat or ferment for between 8 and 24 hours. After this, tea is dried in the sun on special trays. Dried tea is then sieved, pasteurised and graded into various categories.

The criteria: Taste, aroma, length of cut, appearance and whether tea is organically or non organically grown. The highest quality tea is then earmarked for export. The tea also undergoes a stringent microbiological testing process prior to export.

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