Wupperthal, South Africa

“Each household does not have much land, but our rooibos sales help us to educate our children and afford decent medical treatment.”

Wupperthal Rooibos Small Farmer’s Co-operative Limited

Located in the Cedarburg Mountains of South Africa, Wupperthal farmers harvest organically grown rooibos to create a blend of aromatic, soothing and refreshing caffeine free herbal teas including Chai.

The fine leaves of the needle-like rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) bush were discovered to make an aromatic tea when fermented and dried in the sun. For thousands of years, this tall bush plant has been a traditional tea and it only grows in the wild. Wupperthal is one of only two small-scale rooibos producer organizations in the world. Over 98% of South African rooibos comes from large-scale estates owned by white farmers, where black South Africans work as poorly paid labourers.

The land that is left for black South Africans is among the driest in the region.  Droughts in the early 2000’s resulted in lower production - hitting these farmers particularly hard. Most white farmers had the pick of the land, and for this reason the highest production is from white-owned estates. For many generations, these farmers received generous government support and were able to further subsidize their farms by poorly paying black South African labourers.

Dispossession of the first people of South Africa by colonial settlers created a pattern of land ownership that was further entrenched by the apartheid regime. From the early 1800s onwards, the only options open to black South Africans in the area were to work under slave-like conditions for farmers, to escape into the deserts beyond the borders, or to join a mission community, like Wupperthal.

The Wupperthal mission offered black South Africans the opportunity to farm this land. Although apartheid effectively ended in the 1990’s, the missionaries maintained title to the land for fear that any land given back to the black South Africans could be taken away a second time immediately post-apartheid