>>> THE HONEYBUSH STORY....                         ____________________________________________        

A lasting honeybush legacy

As far back as 1922, botanists Joan Hofmeyr and Percy Phillips reported on the commercial potential of farming with honeybush tea. In the Landbouweekblad, a weekly agricultural magazine, of 4 June 1982, Pienaar Smit pleaded that research should be done to initiate honeybush plantings. However, research into honeybush cultivation only got off the ground in 1992 once a group of dedicated researchers joined forces with farmers, processors and marketers to unlock the potential of this indigenous plant. Their shared passion for the product and a strong motivation to grow the industry helped to overcome the many challenges of producing, processing and marketing an emerging herbal tea crop. The early research attracted interest from more research partners in South Africa and abroad, thereby ensuring a strong research base to support the ongoing growth of the honeybush tea industry in South Africa.

​What is in a name?

PHOTO_1.jpgThe name 'honeybush' is derived from the sweet, honey-like scent of the plant when in full bloom with its yellow flowers. Photo supplied by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).

PHOTO_2.jpg
It is easy to spot wild-growing honeybush during springtime when the shrubs are covered in bright, yellow flowers. Photo supplied by ARC.


PHOTO_3.jpgHarvest time: Lorenzo Plank of the farm Nooitgedacht in the Kouga Mountains, north of Kareedouw, with a sheaf of harvested honeybush plant material. Photo by Heilie Combrink, courtesy of Netwerk24.

Honeybush (Cyclopia spp.) is an endemic South African fynbos shrub that grows naturally on the sandy coastal plains and mountain slopes of the Western and Eastern Cape.

Of the 23 Cyclopia species identified to date, only a few species are cultivated commercially for producing honeybush tea. These species include C. genistoides, C. longifolia and C. subternata and the stems, leaves and flowers of these different species look noticeably different. Cyclopia intermedia, wild harvested, still contributes to more than 80% of the annual tea harvest.

People commonly refer to the shrub as honeybush, but the beverage is also known in the Afrikaans language as 'bergtee', 'bossiestee' and 'blommetjiestee', translated as mountain tea, bush tea and flower tea, respectively.

Traditionally, the tea was harvested when the bushes were in full bloom (mainly during spring in South Africa, depending on the species) when it would be easy to identify the bright yellow flowering shrubs in the wild. Research has shown that the flowers contribute to the aroma and flavour of the tea, but that they are not essential for its characteristic sweet flavour and taste.

Because of the unique link between the characteristics of the tea and the geographical locations where the shrubs grow in the wild, application for honeybush to be included in the Geographical Indication (GI) Protocol of the Economic Participation Agreement with the European Union, is in process. Once this is approved, honeybush tea will be fully protected with a GI in Europe. This GI status will confirm that the quality and characteristics of the tea, as well as its reputation, are attributed to its geographical origin. It will also protect the local industry against the misuse of product names, such as 'honeybush' and 'heuningbos'.


BOOKLET: Honeybush Tea - a uniquely South African story


A lasting honeybush legacy

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What is in a name?

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From crop to cup   *   First records of a local cottage industry

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Dr Hannes de Lange: A reflection on the pioneering days

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Commercialisation of Cyclopia genistoides – a story that originated at the foot of Table Mountain

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The advancing role of research in growing the honeybush industry

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Research on honeybush cultivation

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Research on honeybush tea processing

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Local growth and the start of an international footprint

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Looking into the future … Dr Hannes de Lange, Pioneer of the formal honeybush industry, December 2020

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A vision for the honeybush industry: Joyene Isaacs, chairperson Agricultural Research Council Board | Former HOD Western Cape Department of Agriculture, March 2021

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A honeybush timeline: milestones, highlights and interesting snippets

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Sources of information

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Acknowledgements

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Honeybush Homepage

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