This Women’s Month, we salute the brave women all over the world who changed the course of history and paved the way for generations of women to follow. 

Women like Mary Tuke (1725-72), who was born in England, was among the first tea merchants to build a chain of tea stores – the equivalent of Starbucks back in the day – and did so amid many jail threats and fines, since many (mainly men) were vehemently opposed to a woman running a business. 

Oura Kei born in Japan (1850-80s), was pivotal in creating the Japanese tea export market, while Catherine Cranston (1880-1930) from Scotland built a renowned chain of tea rooms in Glasgow, which led to hotels setting aside space for afternoon tea. The list of female tea innovators and influencers, such as Elizabeth Petrovna (Russian), Penelope Barker and Alva Belmont (both American) are endless. 

To the powerhouse activists of the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s, having tea wasn’t just an idle pastime, these women used “tea gatherings” to mobilise support for women’s rights, which over time paved the way for women to identify outside of the home by obtaining loans to start small enterprises, owning property and frequenting establishments without the companionship of a man. 

One could argue that the political March on the 9th of August by more than 20 000 South African women in 1956 to propose amendments to the “pass laws”, was preceded by countless cups of tea shared among these heroic women, which included Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams, among others.

We also have many women to thank for our booming Rooibos industry. Their contribution has supported a healthier lifestyle for millions of people.

This Women’s Month, the SA Rooibos Council pays tribute to all the strong, beautiful and resilient women for their everyday work and struggle towards a better world, where girls and women will have the opportunity to develop their unique skills and talents, which will enable them to pursue their goals and dreams.  

We salute you! Siyakukhahlela! Siyakuhalalisela!