Local Farming Conditions
The Western Cape’s Cederberg region is incredibly bio-diverse and home to a vast number of indigenous fynbos species. It is only here that Rooibos (Aspalathus Linearis) grows in its natural state.
The Cederberg region provides the perfect environment for Rooibos cultivation: Mediterranean climate (with a winter rainfall between 200 mm and 450 mm per year), deep coarse acidic sandy soils, and temperatures that can range from zero degrees centigrade in winter months up to forty-five degrees centigrade in summer.
Rooibos is a very hardy dry land crop; no irrigation is used and the Rooibos plant is often subjected to drought conditions. Superior quality rooibos generally comes from the higher altitude areas with lower rainfall and consequently lower yield. Cultivation practices vary: A typical Rooibos field is harvested annually for about 4-7 years; thereafter a rotation crop (typically oats) is planted for 1-3 years to provide fields with a rest/recovery period where nutrients are returned to the land.
Nursery, Seedlings & Planting
Rooibos is grown from seed which is hand collected from Klipopmekaars healthy mature Rooibos fields. In late January each year, the seed is organically germinated and planted in our nursery. Following four months of attentive nurturing, and as winter gets underway and the temperatures drop, a few million of small organic seedlings are transplanted into fields by hand and using planting machines.
At Klipopmekaar, we practice conservation tillage which means that the soil structure of our fields is carefully preserved for long term soil health. Fields are generally prepared for planting in Autumn. When preparing our fields for cultivation, they are ripped with advanced custom developed tine implements which don’t overturn the soil but rather create deep un-invasive furrows in which Rooibos seedlings can take root. Field nutrient levels are monitored and organically certified fertilizers/nutrients are added when needed.
The Rooibos crop is harvested by hand once a year during summer (January to March) when the bushy-plant’s branches are cut using sickles and neatly bound into bundles (called “gerwe” in Afrikaans). The bundles are transported to our tea court (or processing area).
Cutting & Processing
Upon arrival at our on-farm processing facility, the bundles are sorted and carefully fed into our purpose-built state-of-the-art cutting machines, which maintain a uniform cutting length (from 1 mm to 5 mm depending upon our clients requirements) to ensure a neat and consistent appearance of the final product.
The wet freshly cut (and bruised) Rooibos is then placed in a long low heap across our tea court to “sweat”… a carefully managed process of enzymatic oxidation takes place during fermentation which causes the Rooibos to “magically” change from green to the characteristic red/amber color and the wonderful flavor and sweet distinctive aroma of top quality Rooibos in unleashed.
Drying & Storage
After the sweating process, the fermented Rooibos is spread out across our tea court to dry 100% naturally in the hot African sun. The cutting, fermenting & drying processes are completed in less than 24 hours, and the newly made Rooibos is “picked/sucked up” by a special machine and fed into 400kg bulk bags which are then graded, labelled and transported to our dedicated tea stores.
Green Unfermented Rooibos
Green Rooibos is made from the same plant as traditional Rooibos. The primary difference is in the process. For traditional Rooibos, the green wet tea is cut and “fermented” before drying. In the case of green Rooibos, the fermentation process is skipped, and the “green” tea is sun dried immediately following cutting. Green (unfermented) Rooibos light green/tan colour and a mild “green” taste reminiscent of green tea.
Sieving & Sterilisation
Following ordering by our customers, our Rooibos is sieved (or sifted) to separate dust and non-uniform cuttings. Then, after sieving, the Rooibos tea is fed through state-of-the-art sterilization, pasteurization & drying machines to ensure the final product can be certified as hygienic superior quality Rooibos. Stringent bacteriological and quality control is ensured throughout the production process. Before leaving the sieving & sterilization plant, the tea is tested and certified by the PPECB (Perishable Products Export Control Board), using their strict phytosanitary grading system.
The finished Rooibos tea is weighed and packed in paper bags, which are then palletized and shrink-wrapped, ready for dispatch to contract packers and customers in South Africa and around the world. Working with our strategic partners, we offer a wide range of services to meet your specific customer needs such as blending, contract packaging and bulk supply.
Klipopmekaar Rooibos is certified “Organic” by ECOCERT SA. We hold JAS, EU & NOP/USDA certifications for export to customers in Japan, Europe, the USA, and North America. Our farm and processing facilities are formally inspected annually and certifications are also reviewed and renewed on an annual basis.