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Spiked leaves retain a strict posture, the aesthetic is softened by sibling florals in an optimistic canary hue.

By Paloma Jones


The Aspalathus Linearis, more commonly recognized as Rooibos or Redbush tea, is composed in such a manner that from a distance, the structured rows of fantail shrubs resemble more brush strokes on canvas than South Africa’s prized tea botanical.

The Western Cape province of South Africa stretches from the Cederberg Mountains to the Atlantic coast, descending through the middle valley of the Olifants River.

It is a region celebrated for its abundance of contorted rock formations, lavender and auburn sunsets, and the sweetly perfumed breeze that collects its scent from orange blossoms in the springtime.

The raw and dramatic beauty of the mountainous Cederberg yields a rich and diverse landscape where the perfect conditions collide for the “red bush” to thrive naturally.

It is due to this intricate climatic balance and the plant’s endemic nature that makes the world-famous Rooibos uniquely exclusive to South Africa.

The wildlife and surrounding area are World Heritage protected and homes 500-million-year-old sandstone formations, as well as 6,000-year-old stone wall illustrations of life described by the original indigenous people.

History & Processing

The indigenous Bushmen who inhabited the area, the Khoisan people, began collecting the leaves from the Aspalathus Linearis plant to prepare herbal treatments for a variety of ailments.

The secret of rooibos wasn’t kept quiet for long and in 1904, German immigrant Benjamin Ginsberg became completely enamoured with the plant. He saw a demand for its wondrous properties and along with his already established tea-trading father, began production on the farm Rondegat in the Clanwilliam region of Cederberg.

The promotion of the herbal alternative to tea, the ‘mountain tea’ cemented Ginsberg as the “father” of commercial Rooibos tea. By comparison to the 1,000-plus-year-old Camellia sinensis, rooibos retains a more youth existence with its legacy tracing back to a juvenile 300 years.

Traditionally, the gatherings of leaves were curled into hessian bags and transported down from the mountain ranges by donkeys. After that, the leaves and fine stems were ground with axes and refined down with mallets before being arranged and prepared to ferment. The Rooibos was fermented and dehydrated in the hot African sun.

Over time, only minor changes have been made to the process, even though the overall procedures have become significantly more refined and mechanized.


The aromatic character profile of rooibos is notably a colorful spectrum of flavor.

Ranging from smoked wood and earthy with allures of honeyed fynbos florals, to vanilla-infused geranium. Other fragrant qualities sensed is that of sweetened fruits and caramelized apricot notes.

With regards to its palate perception, a naturally derived sweetness varnishes over nut-like flavors. When brewed for an extended period, the smooth and gentle flavor deepens into full-bodied and rich.


It is not solely due to rarity sourcing or exotic appearance that has Rooibos inundated with global praise.

Technically an herb, when brewed the copper-hued infusion releases a high level of concentrated antioxidants, many of which promote resistance immune system attacking illnesses and a reduction in the aging process. Containing no caffeine nor need for colorants or additives, rooibos stimulates and supports overall health.

A South African mother, Dr. Anetjie Theron, made a claim that boosted the interest in the tea. Rooibos had relieved her young child’s allergies and colic. Theron published her findings, Allergies: an astounding finding, in 1968. The publication provoked medical interest and hundreds of studies were conducted to further understand the full potential of the botanical marvel. This newly developed remedial understanding of tea proliferated its popularity in South Africa.

Green rooibos tea, an unfermented variety, was first produced in the 1990s and in 2006, another innovation to its consumption took shape in the form of the world’s first tea espresso infusion – the red cappuccino.

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