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Kai Stark in South Africa souricng rooibos tea

Rooibos Tea

A $20,000 donation from the SO 1% fund enabled a small South African farmers' cooperative to upgrade its production and fermentation process. The co-op supplies us with rooibos tea through our Well Earth sustainable and ethical sourcing program.

The cooperative is made up of 86 small-scale farmers who were forced onto the most unproductive land in the region during apartheid. Today, however, this marginal land is home to the highest-quality rooibos in the world. Rooibos (pronounced "roy boss") is also known as red tea or redbush tea. The tea was originally drunk only among the indigenous Koi and San peoples of South Africa, but it has become one of the most popular herbal teas in the world.

Key improvements made possible by the SO1% funds include a mechanical crushing system, automated de-clumping equipment, and sanitation and food safety improvements — all firsts in the entire South African rooibos tea industry.

As was the case for all rooibos producers in South Africa, the cooperative's processing methods for this premium crop were initially crude, usually consisting of a step where the picked product was run over by a vehicle for crushing. This method not only introduced the potential for contamination, but the clumping that resulted led to a high rate of wasted product.

Since the new processes were implemented in January 2011, waste has been reduced from 15% to less than 1% — a huge boon to the small farmers who depend on this red tea for their livelihoods. Furthermore, the project has resulted in extremely even fermentation of the rooibos, creating a finer flavor and the most dramatic red color we’ve seen.

"By helping growers develop and improve organic agricultural practices, we hope to help them further optimize the sustainability of their farming operations," says Kai Stark, Frontier's Organic Purchasing Manager.

Organic Fair Trade Rooibos Tea is naturally caffeine-free, slightly sweet and nutty tasting and can be enjoyed any time of day.

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