Workshop introduces grading tool to the industry

5 August 2021


The DSI/ARC Honeybush Project is playing a valuable role in the rolling out of a recently-developed quality grading system for fermented honeybush tea to the local indigenous tea industry, primarily to ensure that the research that has gone into it can be put into action.

The project is providing funding towards a series of workshops through which professionals in the South African tea sector, i.e. persons involved in quality control, marketing, research and development, can learn first-hand how to at best use the standardised grading system. The DSI/ARC Honeybush Project has also funded the writing and production of an accompanying user-friendly manual, the Grading of fermented honeybush tea: an illustrated guide.

The grading system itself was developed by the Department of Food Science, in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Infruitec-Nietvoorbij. The research, largely funded by the Department of Agriculture, Western Cape Government and spearheaded by Prof Lizette Joubert of the ARC, formed part Dr Brigitte du Preez’s PhD-study at Stellenbosch University.

“The objective is to introduce this bespoke grading tool to industry role players via tailor-made workshops, thereby raising the bar of quality control within this emerging industry,” says Prof Joubert, who is also one of the project leaders of the DSI/ARC Honeybush Project.

Six processing companies within the Honeybush tea industry attended the first workshop, which was held on 15 June 2021. It was held at the Sensory Science Facility of the Department of Food Science at Stellenbosch University.

According to Nina Muller, a sensory science expert at SU, the workshop kicked off with a training session on the recognition of the major honeybush aroma attributes. For this purpose, 21 chemical reference standards were used to familiarise the participants with the respective positive and negative sensory attributes associated with fermented honeybush tea.

Workshop delegates were introduced to the quality grading scorecard, a first for the honeybush industry! A roundtable discussion was held to align participants in the scoring of infusion colour and the major aroma and palate attributes.

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Round-table discussions on quality grading of honeybush tea (Cyclopia spp.).

Each participant could also practice the grading of honeybush tea samples using an electronic version of the scorecard, i.e. an e-scorecard. It is currently under development.

“Feedback from the industry participants on the e-scorecard was extremely positive. Participants noted that it is easy to use, and that it would help them significantly on a day-to-day basis to grade honeybush tea,” says Nina Muller.

Participants also highlighted other advantages of the e-scorecard, such as the fact that data can be captured automatically, and it allows them to build a sensory quality database of their company’s portfolio of production batches over time.

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Grading of production batches of honeybush tea using the e-scorecard.


Two similar workshops for industry role players who participated in the validation of the grading system is planned for the third term of the year. Dates will depend on current Covid-19 regulations.

“Further workshops are being considered for the wider honeybush tea industry in 2022,” adds Prof Joubert.

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Industry delegates attending the 1st workshop on the grading of honeybush tea:  Front: Shannon van der Watt & Monique Gordon (Cape Natural Tea Products) and Jani van Schoor (Khoisan Tea); Back: Debora van der Merwe (Babylonstoren); Zelbre Rossouw & Ilze Bruwer (Carmien Tea); Nina Joubert (Agulhas Honeybush Tea) and Carlo Adams (Cape Tea Company).