Many people that I meet at markets and other places ask me why Rooibos tea? And how did I come up with the different blends? To be honest, I don't really know! And to be even more honest, I think I actually drink more coffee than tea!
In 2014/2015, while living in Johannesburg, I loved going to Contessa's Tea House in Rivonia. I loved the combinations of ingredients in the tea blends on the menu and how beautiful the leaves were in the glass tea pots. Every time I visited, I would treat myself to a 50g packet of one of the blends and also invested in a glass tea pot with built in strainer. Tea started to become a very peaceful little mental break from my desk job. How pretty the teas were, the aromas, and the delicate flavours.
One day it struck me that there was very little processing involved in the tea blends as they were primarily whole ingredients - dried fruits, spices, leaves and herbs. So I bought some plain loose Rooibos leaves and having many whole spices at home for curries, that was an easy start. I added cranberries for some sweetness, and my first blend was made!
As a family, we decided to relocate to the beautiful small town of Montagu in June 2015. And I looked to growing tea blends as a little business and using the Montagu Village Market as an outlet. Still consulting in Risk Management which took up my days, this was a slow process and couldn't receive too much of my attention.
Slowly the blends evolved over time. It started with the Spicy Blend - but I took the Cranberries out and decided rather on a dedicated Berry Blend. Then, living in Montagu (the home of dried fruit), we needed a fruity blend that could then be distinctly local. When I was looking for suppliers of tea leaves and spices, I came across a supplier who had organic dried herbs, spices and flowers (hibiscus, corn flowers, chamomile flowers and rose petals). This took me straight back to my Contessa moments and the very visually appealing and pretty teas.
In the September of that year, we decided on a camping trip to the Cederberg and use the opportunity to see some of the Rooibos farms in the Clanwilliam / Citrusdal region (These areas are included in the Geographic Indication status that Rooibos received in 2004). Through a series of events we missed our initial planned visit to a very large Rooibos producer, but ended up at our second planned stop, Skimmelberg Farm. Ria and her husband took us around the farm, showed us the plantations of Rooibos, the processing facilities and their extensive worm farm (vermicomposting), that greatly assists them maintain their Certified Organic status. We then also learned about Buchu - That is the topic of another blog post!
I decided on Skimmelberg as my supplier of leaves, then and there and without doubt. This is where the fifth blend (and our best seller) came into being. Skimmelberg produce a Green Rooibos, which has not gone through the usual fermentation process where the leaves lie in the sun. It is lighter in colour and with even higher levels of anti-oxidants than "red" Rooibos. This formed the basis for our health blend, which I decided to add ginger, chamomile, lemon and lemon grass - all known for their health benefits.
We also had an incredibly pleasant and enlightening visit to the Tea House in Clanwilliam which taught me much about the different options for tea.
Initially, I thought there was not sufficient flavour, in comparison to shop bought blends that have flavourants added. But then I decided to remain true to Rooibos, true to natural flavours and let the blends speak for themselves. Without any artificial intervention, they all have their own distinct flavours, and even my husband, who doesn't like fruit, loves the Porter's Fruit Blend. I am guessing it is the Bergamot (gives Earl Grey its flavour) that is taking any sweetness away.
So we had the five blends. What next?
I was up in Johannesburg for business (Risk Management - not Tea!) and had dinner with my God Parents, who ironically, lived a stones throw from Contessa's. We were chatting about Montagu and I was explaining my tea ideas, and Aunty Mary pulled out her grandmother's tea sets. No one else wanted them, they were soon retiring to a small coastal town, and what better than to give them to me. I was taken aback and incredibly grateful, and so serendipitous, the idea popped into my head, that we need to honour these grandmothers. And so came the name Bumble's Berry Blend. We chose my paternal grandmother for Swain's Spicy Blend, my maternal grandmother for Myrtle's Floral Blend, and had then run out of grannies....
Stella and Porter, you can read about in our products page. They are our "adopted" grannies, and it is but a small way to honour their achievements.
Oh So Prettea really has just been a natural evolution - and like the steeping of tea - it has happened over time as it should, and grown in flavour slowly, and happily.
I have many dreams for Oh So Prettea, and I will share them in the months to come. For now, I love the conversations that tea opens up, I love seeing the excitement in the faces of avid tea drinkers when they smell the blends, and I love the fact, that I can start to be part of the building of a tea culture and appreciation for these quiet, peaceful and Prettea moments that proper tea can provide.