In South Africa, the only country that produces Rooibos, 350 farmers grow it as a crop. Australia and California (United States) tried to grow Rooibos, but failed.
Rooibos is harvested when temperatures are high, by workers who often come from neighbouring countries.
Although rooibos has been consumed for centuries, it has only been grown in recent times. In the mid-19th century, a German priest from Namibia founded the village of Wupperthal in South Africa. He imposed strict rules on the community and set about organising the cultivation of rooibos. Halfway between the Cape and Namibia, Wupperthal is in the middle of the desert. Rooibos, or Aspalathus lineari, is about as undemanding as a camel, and can withstand extreme heat without complaint. The plant’s roots push deep into the ground, which helps it find nourishment. Wupperthal is worth a visit. It’s a journey of several hours along a difficult track, which nonetheless offers some beautiful views for those who like their landscapes arid.
These days, tea is grown from cuttings, not seeds. The cuttings are raised in nurseries. Each nursery cares for thousands of plants at a time: their needs for light and water differ, depending on their age. When the cuttings are two years old they will be planted out in the ground. As they grow, they’ll be pruned into the right shape to optimise the harvesting of the young shoots.
We all like different kinds of holidays. I like to take a step back – or up. This might mean hiking to reach a mountain peak or walking up a hill, then sitting down and enjoying the view for hours. It can also mean reading, which is another way of “getting away” and taking a step back from everyday life. Or, I like to sit by the sea, cup of tea in hand, and look out across the water. It feels good.
Tea plants are like you. In hot weather, they appreciate a refreshing mist. The tea plant belongs to the Camellia family. These plants like water, as long as it doesn’t sit around their roots. This means that tea plants feel at home on sloping ground, preferably in mountainous regions with a warm, humid climate. On flat ground, they require drainage.