The Heiveld Co-op was established to promote the sustainability of the livelihoods of its members.Fifty eight men and women from the community are currently members of the Co-op. They produce their tea proudly by hand, and make minimal use of machinery. Hand harvesting ensures a finer quality of tea, and is also kinder to the tea bushes than the mechanical harvesting practised on plantations.
Income from tea sales is distributed equitably, in a way that benefits the smallest scale producer, and also contributes to the economic independence of women.
The rugged sandstone mountains of the Cedarberg region of South Africa are home to the Rooibos, or red bush (Aspalatusli-nearis).Part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, Rooibos grows here and nowhere else in the world. The name of the Co-op comes from the local name for the area where the tea is grown. Heiveld means heather field.
The necessary combination of soils and climate is unique. The most flavourful tea is produced on the remote plateaux of the SuidBokkeveld Mountains. The deep sandy soils, cool moist winters and hot dry summers suit Rooibos perfectly.
Here the small scale farmers of the Heiveld Co-operative cultivate and harvest their Rooibos bushes. They process it on their own tea court to produce the finest Rooibos tea.
Narrow fields, interspersed with wild fynbos are planted organic rooibos seedlings. Wind break barriers slow soil erosion. Harvesting of Rooibos tea is done on a sustainable basis. Once a year the shrubs are topped, and then allowed to re-grow and to flower before they are again harvested. Most have a lifetime of about 7 years.
Fifty years ago the people of the Bokkeveld harvested tea with sickles, and transported it by donkey cart to natural stone pavements, where they bruised it, allowed it to sweat to attain its rich, red colour, and dried it in the sun.
These days’ machines make it easier to process and transport the tea, but he tea is still harvested in the same, careful way. Rooibos harvesting is physically demanding, and takes place in the hottest months of the year. This is no job for the lazy!