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. A Russian immigrant to South Africa, Benjamin Ginsberg, recognised the potential of this unique “mountain tea” in 1904 and started trading with Rooibos, becoming the first exporter 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. However, 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 her baby’s colic.
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.
In 2006 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.