Later this month, the long-awaited rooibos harvest will be in full swing, at the height of South Africa's summer season.
Rooibos is made from the Aspalathus linearis plant, part of the pea and legume family, which grows high in the magnificent Cederberg Mountains, located some 200km north of Cape Town. These dramatic coastal mountains are renowned for their botanical diversity and form part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a protected World Heritage Site. The smallest of six floral kingdoms in the world and one of the richest, much of its bio-diversity comes from the Fynbos family, a Mediterranean plant type famous for its beautiful spring flowers, of which rooibos is one.
In fact, the remote and wild Cederberg is the only place in the world in which rooibos grows, due to the unique combination of climate and the specific PH balance of the region’s well-drained, sandy soil. Rooibos has thin, needle-like leaves, reaching 10mm in length, with tiny bright yellow flowers and is incredibly hardy, able to withstand this harsh climate where temperatures can jump from 0 degrees in winter to a scorching 48 degrees in summer. The plant thrives amidst the twisted rock formations and rugged terrain, 300 – 600 metres above sea level, and farmers use their specialist knowledge to grow and harvest the tea. When the bushes are 18 months old, the rooibos plant is ready to be pruned and is then picked annually for the next 4 - 7 years.
Tick Tock’s rooibos tea is still harvested by hand and cured using the same traditional techniques as Benjamin Ginsberg first used when he founded the tea in 1903. The freshly picked leaves turn from green to a gloriously deep red colour during the natural oxidisation process where leaves and stems are bruised, chopped and left to cure in the mountain air. It requires great skill to know when the cure is at its peak and one sign is that it begins to give off a delicious sweet aroma that attracts wild bees! To produce green rooibos tea, the oxidation process is cut short by applying heat, an ancient Chinese tea making technique. This stops the leaves darkening and gives the tea its deliciously light taste.
Here at Tick Tock, we have a close relationship with rooibos farmers and regularly visit the Cederberg to oversee the growth and quality of our teas. Once harvested, every batch of rooibos is tasted and approved by us, before being packaged locally here in the UK. The last step in the Tock Tock journey is when the tea finds its way to your kitchen cupboard, ready to be made into a delicious and comforting cup of tea.