A Journey deep in the heart of Rooibos tea: Wupperthal Village

A Journey deep in the heart of Rooibos tea: Wupperthal Village

After telling you about the first two days spent in South Africa in the search of the Rooibos, aka Red Tea, it is time to introduce now another important page of our Travel Diary. Follow us, readers! What happened on the third day is on its way.

Read here the Italian version of the article

25th of  March 2015

Driving the Rooibos Route, an important place to go is the tiny village of Wupperthal: located at the outer boundaries of any urban settlement, the Rooibos tea was planted just here for the first time ever!

Wupperthal is said to be the first settlement of Rooibos tea deep in the heart of South Africa, explained to us Steve, the owner of our accommodation at the Hebron Guest House. Indeed this place is the Earth Mother of the red bush which happened to become the main resource of the Country and still does; South Africa is currently the leading producer of this herbal tea which is cultivated and processed by the local farms but it also grows wild in this semi-arid region thanks to the unique micro-climate.

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Steve purposely lent us a lovely book entitled Khoi – Khoin Culture, Customs and Creative Cooking”, and rich in valuable and interesting information about the community that we were going to meet next: they are still believed to be the direct descendants of the Khoi-San ancestry. And leafing through the booklet, we chanced upon this fine poem.

Rising from the embrace of Mother Earth

“For my lips I use the truth
for my voice friendliness
for my eyes I use compassion,
for my hands, charity.
For my ears I hang rings of joy,
round my neck I wear breads of respect
for my hear I use perseverance
for my arms, embracing and nurturing,
for my legs, confidence
for my posture I sue sincerity
for my breasts, my pride as an African
for my heart, love
for those who reject me
I use Prayer.”

The Beauty of a Khoi Woman

Diario di viaggio alla scoperta del Rooibos, foto di Stefano Adami - OraZero

What about the Khoi ancestry?

The Khoi, also called Khoikhoen or Khoikhoi, are known as the indigenous tribe in South Western Africa; along with the San (namely bushmen), they form the ethnic group of the Khoi-San. These natives were devoted to agriculture since the Prehistoric era and they were supposed to be the very first human settlement in the South of the African Continent and their language and rural traditions reflect the ancestral history of men.

After taking refreshment with a tasteful breakfast made with love by our “travel planner”, we got ready for the next stage of our journey in the heart of Rooibos. Beware of bad road conditions (actually Steve warned us about that since he has been there a lot of times) we were driving through a rocky, dirty track for a considerable amount of time with plain excitement: we could not wait any longer because a true Rooibos lover cannot miss a place like this, despite an uncomfortable two-hour crossing.

TOWARD WUPPERTHAL

At the beginning of the route we rode to Clanwilliam smoothly and fast and the horizon offered us a stunning view of the unique colours of the Cederberg. From Clanwilliam we moved then to East, and at some point we realized how the line abruptly became tricky: so from now on we were expected to cover more than sixty miles in order to reach the village, driving across dusty and critical pathways for thirty miles.

Rooibos Journey, picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

Before getting the heights we stopped at the Kleinkliphuis Small Nature Reserve, a charming Tea House. We were welcomed by a smiling couple, Jack and Joan, who have been running this camping residence since ages. Mrs. Joan revealed us immediately her passion for tea: she has indeed different leaf types such as the green teas and the black ones from China and of course many varieties of Rooibos, which are usually served in the garden with delicious cookies and sandwiches as a proper British tea time. Reassured by Mr. Jack about the path condition (it was expected to be more compact due to the previous rainy days) we were ready to carry on our adventure!

WUPPERTHAL, THE SOUL OF ROOIBOS

Surprisingly the road towards the village turned out to be in good conditions. So we took advantage to stop many times in order to admire from close up the unspoiled nature in front of us; on the way we met as well some baboons roaming undisturbed! After two hours spent on driving, all of a sudden we saw the settlement throughout the valley and hidden in the fog: it really looked like a mirage!

Rooibos Journey, picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

At first sight the village of Wupperthal appeared like an happy island;  we arrived while some school activities were in progress: some kids were playing in the football pitch, and little girls were singing in their classroom. We entered a little bakery and asked if we could explore the area and take some pictures. The women inside greeted us with a huge smile and invited us to continue our visit showing us their soap shop, then the factory making leather shoes and, of course, the farm where the Rooibos tea is processed.

Rooibos Journey, picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

THE SOAP SHOP: RED CEDAR

Firstly we stopped by THE RED CEDAR, a unique store of cosmetics where two women welcomed us. In this tiny house a considerable number of bundling soaps, shampoos, and body lotions were displayed all around; in a room equipped with only two microwaves, a lady was handcrafting some beauty products made with the Rooibos tea and we noticed they were exactly the same provided at the Hebron Guest House, our accommodation. That was so unexpected!

Rooibos Journey, picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

All the soaps are branded Red Cedar and the packaging is not left to chance but so meticulous about the details: indeed a specialized industry based in Calanwilliam cared about that. We still wonder how this is possible in a village located so far, off any kind of civilization. Lenda, who was creating new soaps, answered to all questions we put. She informed us that their business was established 11 years ago: only five women collaborated at the beginning and they produced only simple bars of soap making use of Rooibos tea as main ingredient and mixing it with essential oils, honey or salt. The years gone by and their business expanded considerably, so they started to sell their products even outside the Cederberg, as well in Europe (Germany is said to be a big importer).

Rooibos Journey, picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

At the moment of the interview they were all extremely busy in getting ready the parcels to ship internationally then we did not want to bother them further on; it was time to say goodbye but we could not help but shopping: we got a lot of soaps, lotions, lip balms and even scrubs for face and body, all made from Rooibos! These women deserve to be praised for their activity and initiative.

BAREND SOLOMON: THE MAN OF THE ROOIBOS

Walking a little further up, close to the village church, something attracted our attention: a building brought a visible sign stating this: “WUPPERTHAL ORIGINAL ROOIBOS CO-OP”. Here it is the first and inimitable farm! It was originally established in 1998 and now is a cooperative society taking more than 97 members on, restricted to the Rooibos area, and exporting worldwide.

Later on, while enjoying some shopping in a small shop, a woman revealed us she has been to Italy. Initially she did not remember where exactly, but eventually we were able to come up with the involved place: she stayed at Salone del Gusto in Turin as exhibitor at the Pavilion Terra Madre…unbelievable!

Rooibos Journey, picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

Mr. Barend Solomon

INTO THE FARM

Barend Solomon, the main manager of the cooperative and farmer since he was a child, cheerfully welcomed us. That was too kind of him! Mr. Solomon invited us to take a sit in his office and he began to reveal some secrets about Rooibos tea, showing his cleverness and skills at telling  us about the topic.

Rooibos Journey, picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

“Rooibos flows in our veins since we were born. Mothers nurses their children with Rooibos instead of milk!”

And with these words his story began. Mr. Solomon kept on talking about his product, then explaining the fundamental importance of this bush which covers only a restricted space of this broad and untouched area and all the cultivation processes of the red tea are exactly the same seen at the Carmien Tea farm (click here to read more). He also explained about the strong taste of the wild Rooibos and the difference between the classical and the green one, which is among other things much more difficult to obtain. He was deeply affected telling his life and his commitment in this world so we could not help but being touched too by a person truly keen on Rooibos tea and everything  he does.

Rooibos Journey, picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

Our stay at Wupperthal ended with a  walk around the village partly still unknown. We also visited the leather shoes laboratory which looked like a deserted place but we realized soon how many people in were working all absorbed in their activities in full quietness … amazing!

After this uncommon experience we got hurry back to Hebron where Steve and his young sommelier Arnel were waiting for us, both eager to delight our palate with a special Tea & Wine tasting.

TEA & WINE TASTING AT HEBRON

Arnel Pellegrom, the wine&tea sommelier who works at Hebron Guest House, was waiting for us in her woody dependance where their guests are used to take pleasure and learning to swirl, sniff and sip with the best wines and teas. A genuine surprise awaiting our arrival: Mientjie Marina from CARMIEN TEA  farm came and saw us! All together  went into their unusual wine tasting suspended from time to time with strengthening cups of red tea.

Rooibos Journey, picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

Arnel introduced some wines from South Africa. Here it is the full and detailed list with some tips:

-          Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc 2014

This wine received top accolades from the top tasting panels for at least 8 vintages during the past 10 years. The Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc is one of the top wines in South African Hall of Fame 2013 together with 16 other White Wines. It is a very fruity Sauvignon Blanc with citrus aromas and strong hints of gooseberries, it has a creamy mouthfeel with a crisp refreshing acidity.

Suggested tea to have with it: Rooibos, Honeybush and Hoodia.

-          Seal BreezeSophia Sauvignon Blanc 2009

It is a truly unique wine, a product of passion and made without the use of modern equipment. This wine is made by Joan Wiggins who has not a formal qualification as a winemaker. This Sauvignon Blanc has grassy notes, aromas of asparagus and green pepper the acidity is well balanced. The Name Sophia is honoured as a god of wisdom by Gnostics. And one would say the Sophia is truly….  well, a bottle of wisdom.

This wine will pair with classical Rooibos, Green Honeybush and mint tea.

Diario di viaggio alla scoperta del tè rosso Rooibos #3, foto di Stefano Adami - OraZero

Arnel Pellegrom

-          Fryer’s Cove Pinot Noir 2012

Not your usual colour Pinot Noir, it is a pomegranate red with a hint of orange to it, it’s very light in colour. The nose is complex, deep and it tells you a story of the grapes. The nose is very musty, one can feel lot of mushrooms, vanilla spices on the nose, and also an hints of cherries and overripe plums with very noticeable earthy and organic undertones. The taste is medium to full bodied and very herbaceous, it contains very few tannins and a medium finish. Each time you take a sip you just fall in love more and more! It is the Casanova of Pinot Noirs at Hebron Tasting Room.

Suggested tea to have with it: Rooibos and cherry-orange (it brings out earthy tones and red fruits) or Vintage Romance Flower tea (will take away earthy tones in wine and enhance sweeter flavour).

-          Cederberg Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

An amazing red wine! Almost a perfect Cabernet Sauvignon, it has distinct blackcurrent flavours and hints of rich aromas like leather and tabacco leaves. The mouthfeel is velvet-like and smooth, with softer tannins to round the wine making it a unforgettablle wine.

Suggested tea to have with it: Blackcurrent tea.

Diario di viaggio alla scoperta del tè rosso Rooibos #3, foto di Stefano Adami - OraZero

-          Cederberg 100% Shiraz 2013

Another top wine from winemaker Dawid Nieuwoudt. It won the “Doublé veritas Gold” in 2014. It is a very complex Shiraz with intense aromas of rasberries, mulberries and black cherries. The flavour has an almost smokey oak taste with sweet spicy flavours and vanilla to round the wine.

Suggested tea to have with it: Carmien Rooibos flower tea, Amber Royalty.

And after this truly interesting wine&tea tasting…another surprise was expecting us: a delicious dinner made by Steve down to the Hebron Guest House. How a lovely dinner we did enjoy with Mientjie e Marina!

Rooibos Journey n.3, Picture by Stefano Adami - OraZero

Mientjie Mouton – Managing Director of Carmien Tea Farm

Words by Elisa Da Rin Puppel, English translation and review by Alessandra Rovetta.

Pictures by Stefano Adami

Read here the Rooibos Journey Diary #1

Read here the Roobos Journey Diary #2

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