From its humble origins in the rugged Cederberg region of the Western Cape, the Rooibos industry has charted phenomenal growth, accumulating a history as colourful as the land from which it comes.
1610: Dutch traders were the first to import tea to Europe from China.
1652: The Dutch East India Company (VOC) established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope for the sailors that plied the trade routes between Europe and Asia. They brought with them the culture of tea drinking. Early settlers began to augment the expensive Chinese tea with leaves from the local Fynbos shrubs.
1660: The first pioneer explorers ventured into the Cederberg and Olifants River Valley.
1700 to 1800: Migrants and settlers in the Cederberg area discovered that the fine, needle-like leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant make a tasty, aromatic tea. The leaves and fine stems were chopped with axes and bruised with mallets before being left in heaps to ferment. Once fermented, the Rooibos was spread out to dry in the hot African sun, ready for use as a thirst-quenching drink. Today, Rooibos is still processed in much the same way, but of course, these methods are now mechanised and far more refined.
1904: Benjamin Ginsberg, a Russian immigrant and pioneer in the area, became interested in Rooibos and realised its marketing potential. He started trading it from the local farmers. The fact that Ginsberg came from a family who had been in the tea industry in Europe for centuries provided him with the know-how to market this new "mountain tea".
1930: By 1930, Dr P le Fras Nortier, the local medical doctor and amateur botanist, had discovered the secret of germinating Rooibos seeds. Together with Olof Bergh, a commercial farmer, he developed new cultivation methods and soon the production of Rooibos began on a much larger scale along the slopes of the Cederberg mountain range.
1948: The Rooibos producers established the Clanwilliam Tea Cooperative in 1948 when the Rooibos market collapsed after the Second World War.
1954: At the request of the Cooperative, the Minister of Agriculture appointed the Rooibos Tea Control Board in 1954. The Control Board's task was to regulate marketing, stabilise prices, and improve and standardise quality. A new era began for the Rooibos industry, as the Board's leadership guided the industry towards stability and prosperity. Since that time, the industry has made steady progress, refining its production methods and increasing distribution so that the unique goodness of Rooibos can be enjoyed by people the world over.
1993: The Rooibos Tea Control Board was converted into the fully privatised company Rooibos Limited.
2003: Green Rooibos (unfermented Rooibos) is produced by Rooibos Ltd.
2009: A new cookbook, A touch of Rooibos, is launched. What makes this book unique is that 14 of South Africa's top chefs contributed recipes in which they use Rooibos as an ingredient to show its versatility in cooking.
2011: Rooibos Ltd opened a factory to produce extracts.
2012: Rooibos Ltd distributes Rooibos to 50 countries worldwide.
2014: Rooibos Ltd distributes Rooibos to more than 60 countries around the world.
2015: Rooibos Ltd continues to work with major international brands to develop and launch more ready-to-drink beverages and a variety of products for the food industry.
2017: Rooibos Ltd launches their online shop that offers a wide range of Rooibos and Rooibos related products to consumers around the world.