The Rooibos History - Overview

Let's hop on the time-travel train and journey through the timeline of the  Rooibos  History!

  1. 1759: The birth of the name Rooibos.
  2. 1904: The curing of Rooibos.
  3. 1920: Rooibos shortage leads to the beginning of commercial lands/fields.
  4. 1930: Experimentation with the Rooibos plant and seeds.
  5. 1930: Same plant with different names for offspring.
  6. 1968-1971: An amazing discovery is made.
  7. 1984: Rooibos makes headlines across Japan.
  8. 1995: The development of "Green Rooibos."
  9. 2009: Launch of the cookbook, "A Touch of Rooibos." 2011: Rooibos is used as a dye.
  10. 2017: The first National Rooibos Day is celebrated on 16 January.
  11. 2021: Invention of the "Red Cappuccino."
  12. 2022: Rooibos becomes Africa's first food to join the EU's list of protected products.
  13. 2024: In a significant breakthrough for South African Rooibos tea

Each milestone in Rooibos' journey showcases its evolution, from its humble beginnings as a local herb to its global recognition as a cherished beverage and culinary ingredient.

kookfontein natural rooibos

1759 The birth of the name Rooibos

Rooibos was formerly classified as Psoralea but is now thought to be part of Aspalathus following Dahlgren (1980). The specific name of linearis was given by Burman (1759) for the plant's linear growing structure and needle-like leaves.

The name rooibos is Afrikaans from rooi bos, meaning 'red bush'. - Wikipedia

Picture this: it's the year 1772, and a botanist named Carl Thunberg is making waves in the Cape region of South Africa. Hailing from Sweden, Thunberg's three-year sojourn in the Cape wasn't just about sightseeing — oh no, he had a mission.

During his stay, Thunberg dove headfirst into the local culture, immersing himself in the ways of the Khoikhoi people, also known as the "Hottentotten" to the Dutch settlers. Now, the Khoikhoi were unlike any non-European culture Thunberg had encountered before. Their customs, traditions, and way of life both fascinated and appalled him.

But amidst all this cultural exploration, Thunberg stumbled upon something truly remarkable: the Rooibos plant. Intrigued by its vibrant red hue and unique properties, he knew he had stumbled upon something special. And so, in a stroke of brilliance, he decided to christen it "Rooibos" — a name that perfectly encapsulated the essence of this vibrant herb.

So there you have it — the tale of Carl Thunberg, the intrepid botanist who journeyed to the Cape, encountered the Khoikhoi people, and gave Rooibos its name. It's a story of exploration, discovery, and the enduring legacy of one man's curiosity. Cheers to that!

So, what did he call it? Well, gather 'round, because this is where it gets good. Inspired by the Afrikaans word "rooi," meaning red, and "bos," meaning bush, he christened it "Rooibos" — the red bush.

And just like that, in the year 1772, Rooibos was officially born. Little did anyone know at the time, that this humble herb would go on to become a beloved beverage enjoyed by tea lovers far and wide.

So here's to Carl Thunberg, the man who gave Rooibos its name and set it on a path to tea stardom. It's a name that's stood the test of time, much like the drink itself. Cheers to that!


kookfontein natural rooibos

1904 The curing of Rooibos

Let's take a stroll down memory lane to 1904 when Benjamin Ginsberg was busy putting his tea-making skills to the test. Drawing inspiration from the traditional Chinese method, he decided to give Rooibos curing a whirl.

Picture this: Rooibos leaves nestled snugly in wooden barrels, just like those used for ageing fine wines. It was in these barrels that the magic happened — through a process of fermentation, the Rooibos leaves underwent a remarkable transformation.

Now, here's where things get interesting. You see, back then, the black tea produced from this barrel-fermented Rooibos was known as Keeman. It had a distinctive flavour and character that set it apart from other teas of the time.

But brewing up a batch of Rooibos wasn't without its challenges. One of the trickiest parts was getting those stubborn seeds to sprout. Enter Pieter Lafras Nortier, a medical doctor with a knack for gardening.

Dr Nortier discovered that the key to successful Rooibos cultivation lay in a process called scarification. Essentially, this involved giving the seeds a little nudge by subjecting them to a bit of burning before planting. And wouldn't you know it, this simple yet ingenious technique worked like a charm!

So there you have it — the story of Rooibos curing, from wooden barrels to Keeman tea, all the way to Dr. Nortier's groundbreaking discovery. It's a tale of innovation, perseverance, and a touch of botanical brilliance that continues to shape the Rooibos industry to this day. Cheers to that!

kookfontein natural rooibos

1920 Rooibos Shortage the beginning of commercial lands/fields

As the 1920s drew to a close, the soaring popularity of Rooibos tea brought with it a pressing challenge: a dwindling supply of wild Rooibos plants. But fear not, for in the face of adversity, innovation flourished.

Enter Pieter le Fras Nortier, a district medical officer with a green thumb and a heart for horticulture. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Nortier set out to find a solution to the Rooibos shortage.

With determination and ingenuity, Nortier embarked on a mission to cultivate Rooibos on a scale never seen before. Through careful experimentation and meticulous attention to detail, he developed groundbreaking methods for Rooibos propagation and cultivation.

And thus, thanks to the visionary efforts of Pieter le Fras Nortier, Rooibos found a new home in the fertile fields of South Africa. His pioneering work not only ensured a steady supply of Rooibos for generations to come but also laid the foundation for the thriving Rooibos industry we know today. Cheers to Nortier, the unsung hero of Rooibos cultivation!

kookfontein natural rooibos

1930 Experimenting with the Rooibos plant and seeds

Nothing good goes away without experimenting, so in 1930 Nortier started to experiment with the commercial cultivation of the rooibos plant.

Because the seeds were so small and hard to find, Nortier made the job easier by paying local villagers 5 euros. (oh what was the currency way back then Euro is not that old.....?to fill a matchbox with seeds.

Supposedly the local villagers enjoyed collecting seeds so much, that it didn’t bother them to work hard, as having fun with friends was good enough.

The riddle of germination was finally overcome by Dr Nortier’s research and he demonstrated to local farmers how to germinate their own seeds.


Some plant seeds have a rock-hard outer shell that makes it tough, if not impossible, for moisture to penetrate the seed. Seeds like this don’t germinate well without some human help.

Both scarification and chitting are methods of pretreating seeds to ensure that they germinate and that the seedlings develop into vigorous plants. Without this help, seeds with the hard protective layer will take a long time to sprout - if they germinate at all.

Scarification involves the use of abrasive material or a tool that can break through the hard shell so the seed can absorb water after planting. Many substances or tools work well for chitting and scarification, including the following.

Read the full article here - Scarification 

kookfontein natural rooibos

1930 Same Plant different names for offspring?

Ah, let's step back in time to the 1930s when the Rooibos saga takes an intriguing turn. Meet Oloff Bergh, a farmer with a heart as big as his harvests. Nestled in the picturesque Pakhuis Mountains on his farm, Kleinvlei, Bergh worked tirelessly to cultivate Rooibos, harvesting heaps upon heaps of the precious plant in 1925.

But Bergh wasn't alone in his Rooibos endeavours. Enter Dr. Nortier, a man with a keen eye for botanical treasures. Venturing into the sprawling expanse of Grootkloof, a vast valley teeming with natural wonders, Dr. Nortier stumbled upon a bounty of Rooibos seeds.

Now, here's where things get interesting. These seeds weren't just any seeds — they were the stuff of legend, destined to become the parents of a new generation of Rooibos plants. Dr. Nortier carefully collected and catalogued these seeds, giving them the names "Nortier-type" and "Red tea-type."

And just like babies, these seeds were bestowed with names that would shape their destiny. With tender care and nurturing, they would grow into the backbone of South Africa's Rooibos industry, each bearing the promise of a bright future.

So never underestimate the power of a name, for in the world of Rooibos, it's the seeds that hold the key to a legacy that spans generations. Here's to Oloff Bergh, Dr. Nortier, and the precious seeds that paved the way for a new era of Rooibos excellence!

kookfontein natural rooibos

1968-1971 The amazing discovery.

Being a mother, struggles can be hard. Especially protecting your kids from harmful products and finding different allergic reactions they can have.

So in 1968, Dr Annetjie Theron, a South African mother who was struggling with her baby facing many allergies, did extensive research on Rooibos.

Once again Rooibos came to the rescue as she found that it soothed the baby’s colic.

She then wrote a book about all her discoveries on Rooibos and called it “Allergies: An Amazing Discovery.

Fast forward to the groovy 1970s, when a trailblazer named Theron was about to shake up the world of wellness with a groundbreaking discovery. In 1970, she penned her pioneering book, "Allergies, an Amazing Discovery," shining a spotlight on the remarkable anti-allergic properties of the Rooibos plant.

Inspired by her findings, Theron wasted no time in putting her knowledge into action. In 1971, she founded Annique Products, a beacon of innovation in the world of natural remedies and skincare. And thus, a legacy was born.

But Theron wasn't content to stop there. Oh no, she had bigger dreams in mind. Enter her first product, a revolutionary slimming concoction aptly named Wonder Slim. Little did she know, this humble shake would become the cornerstone of Annique's iconic lifestyle offerings.

Today, Wonder Slim has taken its place as a beloved staple in the Annique lineup, beloved by health enthusiasts and wellness aficionados alike. It's a testament to Theron's vision, passion, and unwavering commitment to harnessing the power of nature for the betterment of humanity.

So here's to Theron, the visionary behind Annique products, and to Wonder Slim, the shake that started it all. May their legacy continue to inspire and uplift for generations to come!

kookfontein natural rooibos

1984 Rooibos - making headlines across Japan

Flashback to the neon-lit streets of 1984, where Rooibos took centre stage in the Land of the Rising Sun. In a groundbreaking moment, this humble herb made headlines across Japan as the latest craze in anti-ageing skincare.

With its potent antioxidants and soothing properties, Rooibos captured the imagination of beauty enthusiasts far and wide. Japanese consumers clamoured for Rooibos-infused products, eager to harness its age-defying magic for themselves.

And so, Rooibos became more than just a tea—it was a symbol of beauty, vitality, and timeless elegance. From creams to serums to masks, the shelves were stocked with a dazzling array of Rooibos-based skincare goodies, each promising to turn back the hands of time.

As the world watched in awe, Rooibos proved once again that its benefits knew no bounds. From the sun-kissed plains of South Africa to the bustling streets of Tokyo, its reputation as a powerhouse ingredient continued to grow, leaving a trail of radiant, youthful skin in its wake.

Here's to Rooibos, the age-defying elixir that captured the hearts of millions and continues to inspire beauty and confidence around the globe. Cheers to glowing skin and timeless beauty!

kookfontein natural rooibos

1995 The development of "Green Rooibos"

In 1995, a new chapter unfolded in the world of Rooibos with the development of Green Rooibos by the Agriculture Research Council. This innovative creation marked a departure from the traditional fermentation process, as Green Rooibos was crafted from unfermented Rooibos leaves.

With its vibrant green colour and fresh, grassy flavour, Green Rooibos offered a unique twist on the classic red brew. Packed with all the same health benefits and antioxidant goodness as its fermented counterpart, it quickly became a favourite among tea enthusiasts seeking a lighter and more delicate tea experience.

Thanks to the Agriculture Research Council's pioneering efforts, Green Rooibos opened up a whole new world of possibilities for Rooibos aficionados around the globe. From refreshing iced teas to soothing herbal blends, its versatility knew no bounds.

So here's to 1995, the year Green Rooibos sprouted onto the scene and added a splash of green to the world of tea. Cheers to innovation and the endless possibilities of Rooibos!

kookfontein natural rooibos

2009: A new cookbook, A touch of Rooibos

In 2009, culinary creativity reached new heights with the launch of "A Touch of Rooibos," a groundbreaking cookbook that showcased Rooibos as a versatile ingredient in the hands of South Africa's top chefs. What set this book apart was not just its collection of mouthwatering recipes, but the fact that each dish was crafted to highlight Rooibos' unique flavors and culinary potential.

Imagine flipping through the pages and discovering a treasure trove of inspired creations, from hearty stews to delicate desserts, all infused with the earthy, aromatic essence of Rooibos. Each recipe was a testament to the chefs' ingenuity and their commitment to showcasing Rooibos' versatility in the kitchen.

But "A Touch of Rooibos" was more than just a cookbook—it was a celebration of South Africa's culinary heritage and the rich tapestry of flavors that make it unique. Through the lens of Rooibos, readers were invited on a culinary journey that spanned continents and cultures, showcasing the diverse ways in which this humble herb could elevate any dish.

So here's to 2009, the year "A Touch of Rooibos" graced kitchen shelves and inspired chefs and home cooks alike to get creative with Rooibos in the kitchen. May its legacy continue to inspire delicious adventures in cooking for years to come!

kookfontein natural rooibos

2011 Rooibos used as Dye

In 2011, Rooibos expanded its repertoire beyond the teacup and into the world of textiles as a natural dye. With its rich earthy hues, Rooibos proved to be a versatile and eco-friendly alternative to synthetic dyes.

Artisans and textile enthusiasts alike embraced Rooibos dye for its gentle yet vibrant colours, which ranged from warm caramels to deep russets. Whether used to dye fabrics, yarns, or even Easter eggs, Rooibos imbued creations with a touch of natural beauty and sustainable charm.

But Rooibos dye wasn't just prized for its aesthetic qualities—it also boasted eco-friendly credentials. Unlike synthetic dyes, which can harm the environment with their chemical runoff, Rooibos offers a renewable and biodegradable solution for the conscientious crafter.

So here's to 2011, the year Rooibos dipped its leaves into the dye pot and left an indelible mark on the world of textiles. From teatime to crafting time, Rooibos continues to inspire creativity and innovation in every cup and every dye bath. Cheers to the colourful possibilities of Rooibos!

kookfontein natural rooibos

2017 The first National Rooibos Day was celebrated on 16 January.

In the annals of Rooibos history, 2017 marked a momentous occasion: the inaugural celebration of National Rooibos Day on January 16th. This landmark event was a testament to the growing popularity and cultural significance of Rooibos in South Africa and beyond.

With its rich heritage and myriad health benefits, Rooibos has long captured the hearts and palates of tea enthusiasts around the world. But on National Rooibos Day, it was time to shine the spotlight on this beloved beverage like never before.

From festive gatherings to social media campaigns, celebrations abounded as Rooibos lovers far and wide came together to raise a cup in honour of their favourite brew. It was a day to toast to Rooibos' past, present, and future, and to celebrate the rich tapestry of culture and tradition that surrounds it.

So here's to 2017, the year Rooibos claimed its rightful place on the calendar with the inaugural National Rooibos Day. May this annual celebration continue to unite Rooibos enthusiasts in joy and appreciation for many years to come!

kookfontein natural rooibos

2021 Invention or ‘Red cappuccino.’

Who doesn’t like a lovely warm cappuccino?  Because in 2006  the first tea espresso was invented.  By first, we mean first in the world.

In the modern era of 2021, Rooibos took yet another innovative leap with the invention of the "Red Cappuccino." This delightful creation reimagined the classic cappuccino by swapping out traditional espresso for a rich and robust Rooibos infusion.

With its naturally sweet and earthy flavour, Rooibos proved to be the perfect alternative for coffee aficionados looking to cut back on caffeine or simply explore new taste sensations. Paired with steamed milk and a frothy foam topping, the Red Cappuccino offered a creamy and indulgent experience that captured the hearts of tea lovers and coffee drinkers alike.

But the Red Cappuccino wasn't just a tasty treat—it was also a symbol of Rooibos' versatility and adaptability. From teapot to coffee cup, Rooibos continued to prove its worth as a beloved beverage for all occasions.

So here's to 2021, the year Rooibos donned its frothy cap and joined the ranks of coffeehouse classics as the Red Cappuccino. Whether you prefer it red or roasted, Rooibos never fails to delight and surprise you with its endless possibilities. Cheers to innovation and the ever-evolving world of tea and coffee!

kookfontein natural rooibos

2022 Rooibos Is Africa's First Food To Join The EU's List Of Protected Products

The European Union has added a South African tea to its register of products with a protected designation of origin.

"It protects the product against would-be producers outside of the rooibos region in South Africa".

The status protects consumers from any fake teas labelled rooibos. It also should result in premium pricing for the tea, which will benefit farmers. It's the first African food to ever be added to the exclusive list.

In a historic moment for Rooibos and South African culinary heritage, 2022 saw Rooibos become the first African food to receive protected status from the European Union. This prestigious recognition placed Rooibos alongside other iconic foods and beverages that have been granted geographical indication protection, safeguarding its name and quality against imitation.

This milestone achievement not only celebrated Rooibos' unique flavour and cultural significance but also acknowledged the hard work and dedication of South African farmers and producers who have nurtured this beloved crop for generations. With its distinctive earthy taste and numerous health benefits, Rooibos has captivated tea lovers worldwide, and its inclusion on the EU's list of protected products further solidified its place in the global culinary landscape.

For South Africa, this recognition was not only a source of pride but also a testament to the country's rich agricultural heritage and the value of traditional knowledge and practices. As Rooibos continues to gain popularity and recognition on the world stage, its protected status serves as a symbol of authenticity and quality, ensuring that consumers can enjoy genuine Rooibos products with confidence.

Here's to Rooibos, Africa's trailblazing tea, and to many more years of delighting palates and enriching lives with its unique flavor and character!

kookfontein natural rooibos

2024 In a significant breakthrough for South African Rooibos tea

In a significant breakthrough for South African Rooibos tea, the Chinese market opened its doors wider with a reduction in duties. Effective from January 1, 2024, China implemented a new tariff classification and customs duty structure specifically for Rooibos tea. This move signaled a positive shift in trade relations, making it easier and more cost-effective for South African Rooibos producers to export their products to China.

By streamlining the tariff classification and customs duty process, China demonstrated its recognition of Rooibos tea as a valuable commodity worthy of support and promotion within its borders. This development not only benefits South African Rooibos producers by reducing trade barriers but also opens up new opportunities for growth and expansion in one of the world's largest tea markets.

With its unique flavor profile, health benefits, and growing popularity among consumers worldwide, Rooibos tea is poised to make a significant impact in the Chinese market. This reduction in duties paves the way for increased accessibility and affordability of Rooibos tea for Chinese consumers, further enhancing its position as a premium beverage choice.

Overall, this breakthrough represents a win-win situation for both South African Rooibos producers and Chinese consumers, fostering greater trade cooperation and cultural exchange between the two nations. Cheers to Rooibos Tea's continued success on the global stage!

kookfontein natural rooibos

The Khoisan and Rooibos History

Let's journey back in time to uncover the early relationship between the Khoisan people and Rooibos tea. In the late 19th century, historical records suggest that Rooibos tea was believed to have originated from the indigenous people of the Cederberg region.

Descendants of the Khoi people attribute Rooibos tea as their traditional beverage, often venturing into the mountains to collect the needle-like leaves from wild Rooibos plants. Laden with hessian bags filled with these leaves, they traversed steep slopes with the assistance of donkeys, making their way back home.

Upon returning, they would process the Rooibos by beating the leaves on flat rocks using sharp stones, effectively bruising them in a manner akin to chopping. This process was essential in preparing the Rooibos for consumption.

Rooibos also held significance in traditional medicine practices among the Khoi community. It is believed that they utilized Rooibos tea to alleviate medical issues such as bruising and sunburn, recognizing its healing properties.

As time progressed, Rooibos became more than just a beverage—it became a practical alternative to costly imported teas like Ceylon tea, which hailed from China. Affectionately nicknamed "poor man's coffee" or "poor man's tea," Rooibos offered locals a more affordable and accessible option to enjoy their daily brew.

Thus, the history of Rooibos intertwines with the cultural heritage and traditional practices of the Khoisan people, serving as both a beverage and a remedy deeply rooted in their way of life.

kookfontein natural rooibos

Resources for this account of the Rooibos History

Ah, the tapestry of knowledge woven from various threads! Here are the diverse sources Norman and Karin might draw upon in their quest for Rooibos' enlightenment:

**Wikipedia**: The digital encyclopedia offers a comprehensive overview of Rooibos, delving into its history, cultivation, and cultural significance with a click of the mouse.

**SA Rooibos Council**: As stewards of South Africa's Rooibos industry, the council serves as a fountain of expertise, providing valuable insights into everything from farming practices to market trends.

**The Whistling Kettle**: This cosy tea emporium is a treasure trove of Rooibos wisdom, offering a firsthand glimpse into the world of Rooibos through tasting notes, brewing tips, and expert recommendations.

**National Geographic**: With its global perspective and in-depth reporting, National Geographic sheds light on the wider context of Rooibos, exploring its ecological impact, cultural significance, and connections to broader environmental and social issues.

**Journals**: From scientific studies to scholarly analyses, journals offer a deep dive into the world of Rooibos, providing a wealth of peer-reviewed research and expert opinions on topics ranging from health benefits to agricultural practices.

**Bushmans kloof.**The Bushmans Kloof website offers a delightful resource on the wonders of Rooibos, providing insights into its culinary delights and health benefits.
**Natural Subura**The Natural Suburbia website offers a delightful guide to dyeing wool with Rooibos tea, unlocking the secrets of this earthy-hued elixir for crafters and textile enthusiasts alike.

With these diverse sources at their disposal, Norman and Karin can paint a rich and nuanced portrait of Rooibos, drawing upon a tapestry of knowledge as vibrant and diverse as the plant itself.

kookfontein natural rooibos

Conclusion for this account of the Rooibos History

As we conclude our journey through the fascinating history of Rooibos, we invite you to embrace the present and indulge in a refreshing twist on this timeless beverage.

While everyone enjoys their Rooibos in their unique way, there's something truly special about sipping on a glass filled with ice and infused with fragrant mint leaves.

This delightful concoction, known as Mint-Infused Rooibos Ice Tea, offers a burst of flavor and a cooling sensation that's perfect for beating the heat on scorching summer days.

So why not treat yourself to a tall glass of this revitalizing elixir and raise a toast to the rich heritage and endless possibilities of Rooibos?

Here's to embracing tradition while embracing innovation, one refreshing sip at a time. Cheers to the past, present, and future of Rooibos!

It's time to cool down - Ice Tea on the Menu

Everyone drinks their rooibos in their own way, but nothing beats a glass filled with ice with mint-infused Rooibos, refreshing and sure cools one off on hot summer days.

kookfontein natural rooibos