The Western Cape Honeybush Tea Cooperative (WCHTC) is putting South Africa on the global map as a top tea producer.
The five-member cooperative is exporting its tea to Switzerland and the world-renowned tea producing country China.
Honeybush tea is a uniquely South African herbal tea. It is made from honeybush, which can be found in the fynbos region, a bushland mountainous area mostly along the Western Cape and Eastern Cape coastal lines.
Chairperson of the cooperative Howard Barends says honeybush is planted in the mountains around Oudtshoorn.
“To ensure that our tea is of the highest standard, we harvest it in the early hours of the morning, when it still has moisture,” he says.
The tea is currently processed at the WCHTC’s factory, where it goes through a boiling process before being sweated for three days. It is then dried for another three days.
“When we dry the tea, we turn it over every three hours to get the right colour and taste for the whole tea. This whole process takes about a week to complete and must be done right all the time,” says Barends.
The cooperative was registered in 2016 by Barends, his brother James, Ferdinad Hector, Raoul du Toit, Channon Hector and Frederick Schroeder. Barends says they chose to register the business as a cooperative to develop the community.
While the company had been in existence for 20 years before this, it was not impacting the community, says Barends.
“When we registered the cooperative, we wanted to use the business to help develop the community of Oudtshoorn. It was easier to do this as a cooperative, than when we were a private company. We also roped in people with the right skills for our cause.”
The WCHTC has started a trust that pays for the higher education of its 52 employees’ children.
The WCHTC received R200 000 in funding from the National Development Agency (NDA). The funding will be used to purchase a tea bag packaging machine.
To apply for assistance from the NDA, call 011 018 5500 or visit www.nda.org.za.