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The Art of Farming Rooibos Tea: A Journey from Seed to Cup

Rooibos tea, a unique beverage native to South Africa, has captivated tea lovers worldwide with its rich flavor and health benefits. But the journey of Rooibos from a seed to your teacup is a fascinating story of careful cultivation and meticulous processing. This article will guide you through the farming process of this remarkable tea.

The journey of Rooibos tea begins with the planting of seeds. Rooibos seeds are tiny and notoriously tough to germinate. They are usually sown in the late summer, and the seedlings emerge after the first autumn rains. The plants are then carefully nurtured until they are ready for harvesting, typically after about 18 months.

Harvesting the Rooibos

Harvesting Rooibos is a labor-intensive process that requires a keen eye and a gentle hand. The plants are cut by hand, and the branches are bound into bundles. These bundles are then transported to a processing facility.

Processing the Harvest

At the processing facility, the Rooibos is cut into small pieces and bruised to encourage oxidation. This oxidation process, similar to the process used in black tea production, gives the tea its distinctive red color and sweet, earthy flavor.

Sun-Drying and Grading

After oxidation, the Rooibos is spread out in special drying yards and left to dry in the hot African sun. This natural drying process further enhances the flavor of the tea. Once dry, the Rooibos is sorted and graded according to length, color, flavor, and aroma. Only the highest quality Rooibos makes it to the final stage of production.

Conventional Farming

Conventional farming of Rooibos involves the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to enhance plant growth and control pests and diseases. This method often results in higher yields compared to organic farming. However, the use of synthetic inputs can have environmental implications, such as soil degradation and water pollution.

Organic Farming

Organic farming of Rooibos, on the other hand, avoids the use of synthetic inputs. Instead, it relies on natural methods to nourish the soil and control pests. This includes the use of organic fertilizers, crop rotation, and biological pest control. Organic farming is more environmentally friendly and promotes biodiversity. However, it often requires more labor and results in lower yields compared to conventional farming.