Two weeks ago we joined a herbal tea workshop at the beautiful Babylonstoren. Dating back to 1692, Babylonstoren is a historic Cape Dutch farm near Stellenbosch that boasts one of the best preserved farmyards in the Cape. French architect Patrice Taravella was appointed to create garden in 2007 and the outcome is outstanding. Its magnificent garden is laid out over 3,5 hectares (8 acres) with fruit trees, vegetable patches, berry bushes, indigenous plants and a prickly pear maze. Chickens and ducks can be seen walking around.
Is Rooibos tea?
Rooibos is called tea but it actually isn’t even tea at all. Usually tea is referred to when speaking of black and green tea made out of Camellia sinensis plant. But we like to call it Rooibos tea. It is common to mix Rooibos with other ingredients and these opportunities truly fascinate us. Creation of tasty, organic and healthy drink is the core of Sunbird Rooibos. Therefore a day at Babylonstoren was a great opportunity for learning.
Gundula Deutschlander and Constance Stuurman have been working in the Babylonstoren garden for many years. The morning session of the Teas and Tisanes workshop took place in the garden where 20 participants introduced themselves and learned about herbs that heal, sooth and balance the body. we became familiar with local plants such as artemisia afra which is used to heal colds, coughs fever and sinusitis.
Constance's immune boosting tea
As part of the workshop, a delicious and beautifully presented lunch was offered in the Greenhouse at the back of the garden. It was an opportunity to get to know other participants and know more about their interests. After lunch, we learned how to make Constance's immune boosting tea with artemisia, leonotis leunurus, ruta graveolus and other ingredients. It tasted rather strong but based on Constance'ss looks it really does wonders. Ruta is a very potent herb and needs to be used in very small quantities. If trying herbs at home please be cautious as many herbs can be toxic.
The father of modern taxonomy
To celebrate Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist who is also known after his ennoblement as Carl von Linné, a small cart was built at the back of the herb garden. We are big fans of Linnaues: he formalised the modern system of naming organisms and named 8 000 different flora and around 4,000 to 5 000 animals.
After classifying some flowers from the Southern tip of Africa, he described the Cape as “that paradise on earth, the Cape of Good Hope, which the Beneficent Creator has enriched with His choicest wonders.” In 1735, he named the Protea after Proteus, a Greek God who could change his shape at will, for the members of this plant group are enormously varied in form, size and habitat.
Stay for the night
Babylonstoren also has a fabulous restaurant Babel that sources most of its ingredients from the farm. If you have some extra cash, staying at the contemporary Farm Hotel & Spa is an experience itself. For more information about oncoming workshops, please visit their website.