Earlier this month we returned from a wonderful holiday. We started in Cape Town and then headed to the Cederberg Mountains. We stayed outside of Clanwilliam at Traveller’s Rest, which is just outside of the Cederberg Wilderness Area. The idea to visit here came from a friend who lives in South Africa. She shared with Tessa that before she moves back to the USA (whenever that may happen), this is the one place she wants to make sure to visit again.
So our intrepid family travel agent (aka Tessa, Mama Moon) worked it into our holiday and we’re all glad that she did! It is beautiful. After a few days at our favorite guest house in the entire country, we drove inland to the Cederberg. The terrain is rugged and rocky and just a stone’s throw from the Traveller’s Rest restaurant begins the Sevilla Rock Art Trail. (You can buy a trail permit at the TR restaurant/farm stall.) The four of us were in awe of the rock art and the terrain and I was in awe of the centuries old wild olive trees. (I like trees.)
We knew that we would be in South Africa’s rooibos region but we hadn’t made any specific plans around this in advance. If you don’t know rooibos…you should. OK, maybe that’s too directive but I love rooibos (‘red bush’). This tea is commonly found across the country of South Africa and on our last few visits to the USA, I’ve noticed it more and more. (You might not know it, though, as it is sometime simply referred to as ‘red tea’ or is found as the ‘red’ in red espressos, lattes and the like.) And it grows only in this region! Here is one map that shows how specific this crop is to its home area. We read that the tea was first used by Asian slaves but we were curious if it hadn’t been used earlier. During a tour at the !Khwa ttu San Education and Cultural Center, we asked. Basically, the answer we received is that the San and Khoi (or Khoikhoi) didn’t have time to drink tea….
We’re assuming it’s especially the British imperial influence which left behind the tradition of tea-drinking. Tea time is often observed. Tea and cake/biscuits (aka ‘cookies’) are served for parents at many of the kids’ school events (including sporting matches). At most places we stay on our travels we can choose between coffee, black tea and rooibos and these can be prepared right in the room with the ubiquitous plug-in water kettle.
On our trip we visited the Netmar Rooibos Teahouse, the Rooibos Ltd. factory (where we watched a video) and Nancy’s Tea Room. Yep, we were playing our parts as tourists to the hilt this holiday. It would have been fun to visit the Elandsberg Tea Estate which does eco tourism, but it didn’t fit with our schedule. But we did come home with quite a bit of rooibos, which is caffeine-free, rich with antioxidants, soothing to upset tummies and comes in a wide variety of preparations: green (not fermented so not the trademark red color), plain and mixed with any of a variety of herbs, spices, fruits, etc. My current favorite is a rooibos espresso with a bit of honey.
[Note: in my searching for links for this post I came across this story about some legal action regarding intellectual property and rooibos as trademark.]