In 1994, the first honeybush tea plants were established on our farm on the southern slopes of the Bredasdorp Mountains. It started off with a parent plantation of a few honeybush tea species and selections (Cyclopia spp.), as very little was known at that stage about their ecological preferences and general usefulness to the tea industry. At present, we have 30 hectares of prime honeybush tea, emanating from seeds harvested in the initial mother block. Following a careful breeding programme, we continually selected the plants most desirable from the view point of growth habit, which facilitates the harvesting procedure, and most importantly produces an excellent quality tea.
Our tea processing plant and drying area were built in 2008, and the registration of Agulhas Honeybush Tea CC followed suit in 2009. After more experimentation it was decided to utilize only Cyclopia genistoides honeybush species, as we prefer its taste above that of any of the other species. Since this decision was made only Cyclopia genistoides honeybush tea is planted on our farm. At present Agulhas Honeybush Tea is the only unit in the world growing and processing solely C. genistoides honeybush tea. The popular name for this species is “kustee”, meaning “coastal tea”.
Over years of intensive research we have been selecting C. genistoides genotypes adapted to harsh weather conditions and disease resistance. However, we still select plants for their fine and lush growth habit, which we prefer when making our tea.
At Agulhas Honeybush Tea we farm organically, although as of yet not officially registered. This is included in our planning for the immediate future, hopefully within the next two years. No chemicals for fertilization and weed, insects and disease control are applied in our plantations. Only pure fountain water is added to our cut tea to start the fermentation process. No preservatives, additives, sugar or honey are added to any of our products.
Honeybush tea is indigenous to South Africa and specifically to the fynbos areas in the Western and Eastern Cape. There are more than 20 different species and each of them favours very specific environmental conditions to thrive. Thus, some species require cooler weather, with nearby sea breezes to flourish, as in the case of C. genistoides. Other species, like C. intermedia (bergtee, “mountain tea”) prefer a cold environment high up on southern mountain slopes, where snow and fog occur regularly. There are still areas where honeybush can be harvested in the wild. All our tea, however, is harvested from our own sustainable source and not from any source in the wild; a measure which contributes to the conservation of the natural genetic diversity of C. genistoides. All these carefully considered decisions regarding harvesting, planting, breeding and processing of honeybush tea are meant to contribute to our sustainable and organic farming practises without any compromises.