Four hours north of Cape Town lies the Cederberg, an ancient place where time stands still. It is here within this harsh landscape that rooibos grows and nowhere else in the world. The Cederberg forms part of The Cape Floristic Region: the smallest but richest of only six floral kingdoms in the world. The converging currents of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, which meet at the tip of Africa, render this area an environmentally unique and highly biodiverse region with myriad plant species, including rooibos, growing here and nowhere else.
Leopards roam free and the stories of the San, a nomadic tribe that roamed this area tens of thousands of years ago, are painted on cave walls. The San were the first to discover the powerful healing properties of the tea made from the rooibos plant.
Most rooibos tea is grown on lower-lying fields near towns with the help of irrigation and machinery. But the red espresso journey does not begin here.
Here, red espresso tea grows slowly on high altitude plateaus, as nature dictates, wherever we can find space in and amongst natural vegetation.
Up in this semi-arid, isolated area, everything is done differently. Altitude, soil chemistry, microclimates and surrounding vegetation all contribute to the superior quality of our rooibos. Mechanization and irrigation are not an option and our rooibos bushes must struggle to survive. This, and traditional farm methods of yester year hold the secret to our bolder, richer tasting tea.
'Up in the mountains, time stands still. Massive sand stone mountains, eroded by wind over millennia, look like they belong on the moon. It is a very rugged, stark region where leopard roam free and water is a precious and sparse resource. This harsh environment where only the strong survive comes through in every cup of red espresso.' Pete Ethelston, Co-founder and Managing Director of red espresso
We follow sustainable, organic practices and do not use herbicides, pesticides or irrigation. Our primary farm was awarded the highest biodiversity rating in the rooibos industry for farming as close to nature as possible. These are the things that are important to us.
For the first year, our rooibos plants are not harvested but ‘topped’, allowing each plant to grow into a healthier, fuller bush. They are left to grow naturally for another year before we harvest them.
Our tea is expertly fed through a cutting machine to a size that is unique to red espresso. This cut rooibos is then laid on a shallow heap down the centre of a large tea drying court and watered with pure clean mountain water.
Almost instantly, heat builds up and the tea transforms from bright green to a dark reddish-brown – and builds up to 36°C (97°F)! It is left to ferment overnight.
A custom-made spreader shoots the fermented rooibos across the court, and it is left to dry in the sun. Once dry, our tea is collected, packed into bags and steam-sterilise