- Like rooibos, honeybush is a uniquely South African herbal tea. It is made from the leaves and stems of the indigenous Cyclopia shrub that grows naturally in specific fynbos regions in an area ranging from Piketberg in the Western Cape to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.
- The 23 known honeybush species – all belonging to the genus Cyclopia – each has a characteristic distribution in nature. Some species prefer sandy coastal plains, while others flourish on cool, moist mountain slopes.
- Most of South Africa’s honeybush crop comes from people harvesting wild-growing honeybush – especially Cyclopia intermedia (“bergtee”). A small, but growing number of farmers grow specific species, such as Cyclopia subternata (“vleitee”) and Cyclopia genistoides (“kustee” or “coastal tea”) commercially.
- Consumers around the world are increasingly interested in honeybush tea, because of its unique flavour and health properties. Honeybush can also be used in value-added foods, dietary supplements and cosmetics.
2. Local business environment
Find the latest Honeybush Market Value Chain Profile on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries’ website www.daff.gov.za (on the Directorate Marketing web pages).
- South Africa’s current honeybush crop is about 200 tons per year. More than 80% of this is exported to over 25 countries. The demand for honeybush far outstrips the supply.
- About 80% is wild harvested and only about 20% is cultivated. It is important to reverse this ratio in order to relieve unsustainable pressure on wild honeybush populations.
- Nurseries have been built to encourage the development of honeybush plantations, and interventions by role players like the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and South African Honeybush Tea Association (SAHTA) are to encourage sustainable honeybush farming (rather than the harvesting of wild honeybush). This is key to realising the significant growth potential of this young industry.
- This sector has been identified as one with the potential to double its workforce.
- Further uses of these two crops includes the preservation of alcoholic beverages, replacing the use of synthetic preservatives like sulphites. Rooibos and Honeybush have more than 300 trademarks and 20 patents to their names (Van Wyngaard, 2016).
3. The process
- Depending on species, plants are harvested once a year, mostly during summer. Honeybush processors shred and oxidize the plant material to its dark brown form.
- Most on-farm processors utilise tobacco-cutters or equivalent to cut the plant material into small pieces. Advances in the industry include a speed-controlled conveyor belt that feeds a three-bladed rotating cutter, which cuts the plant material into fine particles without breaking the structure of the plant.
- The plant material is “fermented“ for approximately 24 hours at a temperature of 85°C, or for 60 hours at 70°C, depending on the species. Stainless steel rotating drum fermenters are used, which in some cases also served as driers. Alternatively the tea is dried in the sun. Final moisture content after drying is less than 10%.
- Latest research indicated that the aroma profile can be manipulated to enhance certain desirable aroma notes by adjusting the “fermentation” temperature/time combination. A generic sensory wheel was developed to capture the different flavour notes that could be present in honeybush teas. Find this wheel under “Publications” on www.sahta.co.za.
4. Role players
South African Honeybush Tea Association (SAHTA) c/o Hortgro Tel: 021 870 2900 www.sahoneybush.co.za Find further contact details on the website.
Role players not directly involved
- The Government’s IPAPs (Industrial Policy Action Plan) have featured honeybush as an area in which jobs can be created in the country. As such, it has been included as a priority in AgriSETA planning. Visit www.agriseta.co.za.
- Cape Nature www.capenature.co.za
- Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism – Eastern Cape, gerrie.ferreira [at] dedea.gov.za
- Department of Economic Development and Tourism: Western Cape, goodwell.dingaan [at] westerncape.gov.za
- Department of Trade and Industry www.thedti.gov.za
- National Agricultural Marketing Council www.namc.co.za
- Western Cape Department of Agriculture www.elsenburg.com
- Department of Science and Technology, Mammone.tang [at] dst.gov.za
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