Postgraduate student (Food Science) at Stellenbosch University (SU)


  Study leaders: Professor Lizette Joubert; Professor Dalene de Beer & Dr Erika Moelich


"The alternative oxidation process is faster and consumes less energy.
This process, however, needs some fine-tuning."

Exploring a new fermentation process for honeybush

A new method of honeybush fermentation was recently developed by Prof. Elizabeth (Lizette) Joubert, an expert tea researcher at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and one of my academic supervisors.

While optimal conditions have been determined for the standard oxidation method, it is not yet known for the new process. During "fermentation" the shredded plant material oxidises and develops the unique flavour and brown colour honeybush tea is known for. In my research, I want to determine at what temperature and for how long this new process must be used to develop optimum aroma and flavour of two Cyclopia species, C. subternata and C. genistoides

Why this matters

The alternative oxidation process is faster and consumes less energy than the standard process currently used in the honeybush industry. It should, therefore, be more cost-effective to use than the existing process. The new process must, however, still be fine-tuned. It can then be used on a large scale. It is important to find out whether this process changes the quality parameters of the tea, including its sensory profile. Furthermore, we also have to investigate whether the new process could lead to the formation of aromas, as well as to what extent it could degrade the bioactive polyphenols in the tea. Polyphenols refer to a group of diverse molecules that are associated with the health benefits of honeybush tea.

ALICIA_PETRUS-small.jpgAbout the student

Petrus completed her BSc (food science) degree (cum laude) at Stellenbosch University (SU) in 2018. During her studies, she obtained work experience as a quality controller at Excellent Meat Packers in Elsies River in 2016. She also worked as an intern at Khayelitsha Cookies, Ndabeni, the following year. Here Petrus gained skills in aspects of food science, including product and recipe development, product description, internal audits, planning and organisation, as well as research and problem-solving. During this time, she also got to know the principles of basic good manufacturing practices. Since 2016, Petrus has been a member of the Golden Key Honours Society and the South African Association of Food Science and Technology (SAAFoST).


Alicia Petrus, a postgraduate student in the Department of Food Science at Stellenbosch University, is fine-tuning a new and energy-effective fermentation method for honeybush tea.