In pre-colonial times, the Khoi-San people lived a nomadic lifestyle in South Africa’s Cedarburg Mountains. For thousands of years, they roamed a wilderness of steep ravines and sparse vegetation, relying on simple sustainable technologies, a cooperative social structure, and a deep knowledge of nature to survive. Among the plants they gathered was a shrub from which they brewed a soothing and delicious beverage: rooibos.
The era of European colonization brought profound and difficult changes for the Khoi-San. They found themselves caught between rival European factions with little ability to protect their homeland from conquest.
In the late 1800’s, some of these beleaguered people found refuge in an isolated mission community called Wupperthal. Here they adopted an agrarian lifestyle to survive the years of genocide and apartheid that followed the colonization of South Africa. Today, the 170 family farmers that make up the Wupperthal Fair Trade Cooperative are the direct descendants of those original refugees.
According to most literature on the subject, an immigrant Russian tea merchant named Benjamin Ginsberg discovered the commercial promise of rooibos in the early 20th century. However, the Khoi-San people had wildcrafted and hand-processed rooibos since prehistoric times. It was they who first learned to crush the green herb on natural stone surfaces and ferment it to achieve its characteristic red color.
In the years of apartheid, these marginalized small farmers could not possibly compete with the huge mechanized farms of the white South Africans. With little access to outside services and markets, the Khoi-San farmers lived an impoverished and tenuous existence. Few people knew of the superior quality of Wupperthal Rooibos:
· Organically grown on sustainable plots
· Harvested and processed in small batches by hand
Today, EcoTeas is delighted to share this herb with North American customers. They find rooibos to be a wonderful lifestyle-complement to the energizing yerba mate. In addition to its many traditional healing properties, it is:
· 100% caffeine-free
· Low in tannin
· A rich source of antioxidants