A while ago our stockist, Poetry, interviewed Anton for their blog. Read the full story below.
Experience Rooibos like this
There’s a fun challenge that comes with purchasing Poetry’s new Rooibos tea from local supplier, Sunbird. You need to taste it and taste it again, comparing it to your regular run-of-the-mill Rooibos until you can say with confidence that you know what ‘single origin’ tastes like.
Like with coffee and wine, single origin refers to how the tea is sourced from one specific farm, never to be mixed with Rooibos from another. “Until now, most Rooibos is a blend of tea sourced from various farms with the intended being a consistent, if average product,” says Sunbird’s Anton Louw. “We have found farms that have something special happening with their tea, and present it unblended to express the unique quality of that farm.” Today Anton and Laura, “a husband and wife team,” work from their home office in Cape Town’s Green Point.
Anton’s introduction to the world of tea was the unexpected result of a journey to the Himalayas. “When we moved to Nepal, I had the intention of using my experience as an environmental consultant,” he says. “We arrived in April 2015 - unfortunately timed with the Earthquake. This made finding work in my line difficult, so I began to look for other things, and that was when I discovered what tea – real good tea – was.” With a history in the wine industry, Anton discovered tea wasn’t so different. It was a natural fit. “I learned about it, began hosting tea tasting classes and ended up managing a tea bar.” Upon returning to South Africa, he discovered there was no shortage in Asian tea suppliers, but that there was still plenty of room to grow working with Rooibos.
Being such a small business has its challenges. “Being taken seriously by some of our suppliers has been tricky,” he says. The drought in the Western Cape was a significant hurdle, but in the end team Sunbird found the kind of farmers who support and believe in their vision: organic, single-origin and premium Rooibos. “Organic is particularly important for teas,” says Andrew, explaining that there’s no washing process in tea production, so any pesticides that are sprayed on the plant end up in your cup. The premium aspect refers to the quality of the farms. Anton offers a wine analogy: “There are supermarket wines that have grapes sourced from all over, where the winemakers’ aim is to produce a consistent product at an affordable price. Then there are estate wines, which make a point of being different across vintages and from neighbouring farms.” Sunbird Rooibos is the latter.
Team Sunbird’s current focus is growth. They share a warehouse with an energy bar company in Montague Gardens, employing casual packers with increasing frequency. “We look forward to those positions being permanent,” says Anton. Depending on the farmer, Sunbird receives the tea either processed or not, in which case they outsource. From next year, they’ll be making their own batches – an exciting prospect.
Once your palate has become attuned to the unique intricacies of single origin, pairing your tea with South Africa’s favourite snacks will become all the more appealing. “One of Rooibos’ best aspects is its versatility,” says Anton. He recommends pairing it with a whole wheat rusk or a bowl of porridge with cinnamon and honey for breakfast, a koeksister or lekker stukkie melktert for a mid-day treat, or a helping of bitter dark chocolate before turning in for the night.
First published at Poetry Blog