Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos Tea)
Although many of the plants in the genus Aspalanthus are attractive, they
have apparently seldom been grown in gardens. This is thought to be due to
the difficulty in propagation by seed or root cuttings and in providing the
optimal growing conditions for the plants. In order to grow Aspalathus linearis
successfully, seeds must first be scarified and then planted in acid, sandy soils.
The seeds we sell have already been treated so should be simple to grow.
Plant seeds in trays in late summer to autumn at a depth of 2cm. Use deep
seedling trays for this purpose. The seedlings will be ready to be planted out in
June to July.
Plants are generally rainfall dependent and the plants prefer not to be too wet.
No fertilizing is required and the plants grow quite well in nutrient poor
Generally farmers plant seeds in February and March and then transfer the
seedlings to plantations. It takes 12- 18 months before the shrubs are ready to
be harvested. The plants are harvested once each year, from December
through April. They are harvested up to period of five years and then pulled out
and new plants are planted.
The basic method of rooibos harvesting has remained largely the same as the
process used centuries ago. An environmentally friendly way of harvesting tea
is used that involves cutting only the young branches. Once they are cut, they
are neatly bound and transported to the process yards. The older branches are
left on the tree and the bushes get slightly taller every year. The tea cuttings
are chopped very fine and then bruised to ensure that the important chemical
reaction which develops the characteristic colour and flavour of the tea can
take place. After watering and airing, the tea is left to “sweat” in heaps and it at
this point that the tea acquires its typical reddish brown colour and develops its
sweet flavour. After the sweating process has been completed, it is spread out
in a large drying yard to dry in the sun.
The rest of the process involves sorting and grading the tea according to
length, colour and flavour. The finished Rooibos is finally weighed, bagged,
and sold to companies who pack the product in either teabags or in loose leaf
form under their own brand names.
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