Why do we celebrate Rooibos Day in South Africa?

Celebrating this unique and proudly South African drink is easy – most South Africans love the product and drink it regularly. 

The red bush

Rooibos is the Afrikaans name for the species Aspalathus linearis. It means ‘red bush’, and as such internationally it is often known as red tea. It is called this for the rust colour that the leaves become when drying – and this is same deep amber red colour that one finds in your cup.

A short history of Rooibos

Although the Afrikaans name has become the universally accepted one, these Dutch settlers were not the first to discover Rooibos. It has been used by the San – the first nation tribes of South Africa – for millennia prior and their herb lore has formed the foundation of modern medical research. It is a historical quirk that two of the world’s great infusions originate from one of the longest surviving hunter-gatherer societies and the other from one of the world’s foremost civilizations. 

It was only in the 1930s that the potential of Rooibos as a commercial product was explored by Benjamin Ginsberg who was born on this day in 1885. A Russian immigrant and pioneer in the Cederberg region of the Cape, he became the first to trade Rooibos tea and cultivate it under production.

It did not take long for Rooibos become a fixture in the kitchen of most home across our country’s diverse cultures – another testimony to its fine flavour.

Only grows in South Africa

Yet, despite its growing international popularity as the world learns how tasty it is, it is still only farmed close to its home range. This makes it a rarity as a globally traded crop who’s source remains within its indigenous homeland. Therefore Rooibos is a uniquely South African drink and we should celebrate it!

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