Fact File

Rooibos History
  • More than 300 years ago, the local inhabitants of the mountainous Cederberg were the first┬áto discover that the needle-like Rooibos leaves can be used to make a refreshing brew. These Rooibos pioneers used axes to harvest the plant in the wild, they then bruised the leaves with hammers before leaving it to ferment in heaps and then drying it in the sun. Today the plant is harvested and processed in much the same way, but with more sophisticated equipment.
  • Early Dutch settlers at the Cape started drinking Rooibos as an alternative to the very expensive black tea from Europe.
  • Carl Thunberg, a botanist from Europe who visited the Cape in 1772, reported on the Rooibos plant and the tea brewed from it.
  • In 1904 a Russian immigrant to South Africa, Benjamin Ginsberg, recognised the potential of this unique "mountain tea" and started trading with Rooibos that he bought from Khoi descendants. He became the first exporter of Rooibos. Ginsberg's family had been involved in the European tea industry for many generations. Today, the Ginsberg family is still involved in the marketing of Rooibos.
  • In the early 20th Century, Rooibos captured the imagination of medical doctor and nature lover Dr Le Fras Nortier. Drawn by this mysterious and aromatic tea, he started researching its medicinal value and agricultural potential.
  • The growing of Rooibos as a commercial crop only started in the 1930's.
  • In 1968 Mrs Annetjie Theron, a South African mother struggling with an allergic infant, put the spotlight on Rooibos with her claims that it soothed away her baby's colic. She published a book on her findings called "Allergies: An Amazing Discovery" and went on to launch a full range of health and skin care products with Rooibos as the basic ingredient.
  • In 1984 Rooibos made headlines in Japan as an anti-ageing product.
  • Green Rooibos was developed in 1995 by the Agricultural Research Council (Infruitec) in South Africa.
  • A new Rooibos innovation in the form of an espresso, the first tea espresso in the world, was introduced to coffee shops and retail outlets during 2006.