Drinking tea is more than just enjoying a flavourful beverage. It has been part of almost every culture for thousands of years with every country moulding their respective tea-drinking ceremony around their social values and traditions.
These ceremonies range from the daily tea ritual of Gong Fu Cha in China and Japan where each movement and gesture serve a purpose – symbolic of the uniqueness of every meeting and moment. In Russia, the Chaepitie tradition, has led to distinctive styles and shapes of teaware, as well as the samovar, a unique tea brewing device.
Afternoon tea was introduced to England by the seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840. She would become hungry at 4 o’clock in the afternoon when she was served a tray of tea, sandwhiches and cakes. Since then, afternoon tea has become the Brits’ favourite time to pause for a cuppa.
South Africa is another big tea drinking nation and it’s rare to find a pantry without Rooibos. So, where did our love for Rooibos begin?
Origin of Rooibos:
According to the history books, early Dutch settlers at the Cape started drinking Rooibos as an alternative to the 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 1930s.
How South Africans drink their Rooibos:
Today, Rooibos is enjoyed as a red (fermented) or green (unfermented) tisane, along with countless other blends. It is also popular as a latte, cappucino or espresso.
Rooibos is a big part of the rich tapestry that makes up South African custom and drinking it brings family and friends together.
According to a survey conducted by the SA Rooibos Council, the majority of South Africans (41%) drink Rooibos black, while 39% add dairy (milk or cream). About a third add a teaspoon of sugar, sweetener or honey. Twenty percent like to add a touch of lemon, while 7% spice it up with cinnamon or other spices.
Enjoying Rooibos with rusks, toast and jam, biscuits and cake are among the top foods that South Africans like to pair with the herbal tisane.
How to brew Rooibos just right:
Rooibos should be brewed with either one to two teaspoons of loose tea leaves or one teabag per cup (250ml) of boiling water for at least five minutes. Steeping it for longer will increase the antioxidant content.
The best way to extract the optimal level of antioxidants from Rooibos, is to pour the boiling water in first, followed by the teabag or loose leaves. Then drink it black or enjoy with honey or milk. It can also be stored in the fridge and enjoyed as an iced tea.
Judging by the amount of Rooibos South Africans consume annually, it’s clear that the custom has been engrained in our culture for generations, which says a lot about its strong connection with the people of our beautiful nation.
COMPETITION: FANCY THIS GORGEOUS TEA SET FROM MAXWELL & WILLIAMS?
Designed by Netherlands artist, Anne Marie Hermans, the Primavera range from Maxwell & Williams is inspired by florals. Each piece in this crockery collection features painterly florals in a contemporary pastel palette. The range includes porcelain dinnerware, teaware and accessories. One lucky winner will receive the gorgeous tea pot, plus four cups and saucers from the Primavera range.
Enter below and tell us why Rooibos is your favourite tea indulgence.
A winner will be chosen by way of a random draw.
Competition closes 30 April 2023. Don’t miss out!