From farm to cup

An ancient place where time stands still

Four hours north of Cape Town lies the Cederberg, an ancient place where time stands still. It is here within this harsh landscape that rooibos grows and nowhere else in the world. The Cederberg forms part of The Cape Floristic Region: the smallest but richest of only six floral kingdoms in the world. The converging currents of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, which meet at the tip of Africa, render this area an environmentally unique and highly biodiverse region with myriad plant species, including rooibos, growing here and nowhere else.

Leopards roam free and the stories of the San, a nomadic tribe that roamed this area tens of thousands of years ago, are painted on cave walls. The San were the first to discover the powerful healing properties of the tea made from the rooibos plant.

Most rooibos tea is grown on lower-lying fields near towns with the help of irrigation and machinery. But the red espresso journey does not begin here.

Mountain tea 
We travel further up through mountain passes to reach our farms. Here, red espresso tea grows slowly on high altitude plateaus, as nature dictates, wherever we can find space in and amongst natural vegetation.

Up in this semi-arid, isolated area, everything is done differently. Altitude, soil chemistry, microclimates and surrounding vegetation all contribute to the superior quality of our rooibos. Mechanization and irrigation are not an option and our rooibos bushes must struggle to survive. This, and traditional farm methods of yester year hold the secret to our bolder, richer tasting tea.

‘Up in the mountains, time stands still. Massive sand stone mountains, eroded by wind over millennia, look like they belong on the moon. It is a very rugged, stark region where leopard roam free and water is a precious and sparse resource. This harsh environment where only the strong survive comes through in every cup of red espresso.’

Pete Ethelston, Co-founder and Managing Director of red espresso

Single estate
Unlike other rooibos, we make sure our tea is sourced from these single mountain estates and never blended. It is this integrity and rare quality that sets red espresso apart. 

We work directly with our farmers
Rooibos runs in the blood of the farming community who help us plant, harvest and cut our tea; year after year. With an intimate knowledge of their land and craft, they have perfected the art of a process handed down through generations.

We practice fair trade principles with our third generation rooibos farmers and work together with them to grow the best tea.

Grown as close to nature as possible
We follow sustainable, organic practices and do not use herbicides, pesticides or irrigation. Our primary farm was awarded the highest biodiversity rating in the rooibos industry for farming as close to nature as possible. These are the things that are important to us.

Taking 2 years to mature
For the first year, our rooibos plants are not harvested but ‘topped’, allowing each plant to grow into a healthier, fuller bush. They are left to grow naturally for another year before we harvest them. 

Hand harvested
Harvesting rooibos takes place during summer between January and April every year. Starting before the sun comes up, our harvesters cut ripe, green rooibos by hand with sickles.

Before the sun strikes noon 

Cut to size
Our tea is expertly fed through a cutting machine to a size that is unique to red espresso. This cut rooibos is then laid on a shallow heap down the centre of a large tea drying court and watered with pure clean mountain water.

Almost instantly, heat builds up and the tea transforms from bright green to a dark reddish-brown – and builds up to 36°C (97°F)! It is left to ferment overnight.

Green turns red
In the morning, bees tell us our tea is ready: It smells like honey!

A custom-made spreader shoots the fermented rooibos across the court, and it is left to dry in the sun. Once dry, our tea is collected, packed into bags and steam-sterilise

Our eco-friendly custom-built factory
Welcome to the home of red espresso, where our rooibos tea is carefully cut with specialized machinery to meet the specifications of our patented grind.

Patented grind
Our grind ensures maximum flavour extraction of our tea within the optimal time to make the perfect rooibos espresso.

Perfection in every batch
Every batch of red espresso rooibos tea is analyzed and sensory tests are carried out on final in cup quality. It’s not by chance that red espresso maintains its quality “famous” taste that you’ve come to expect and love.

Everything is done by hand
Hand sown, handpicked, hand-packed, and at last, handcrafted from crop to cup.

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