Dr. Frikkie Strauss
Primarily, Dr. Frikkie Strauss is a family doctor in the town of Clanwilliam, South Africa. But ever since he was a young boy, he has had a special interest in medicinal plants - which is why he now harvests the world's most delicious wild rooibos from his family farm.
The family has a long history with rooibos, starting with Frikkie's great grandfather, Dr. Pieter Le Fras Nortier, and continuing with his son, Johann, who currently manages the farm. They run it together with Frikkie's 79-year-old mother and his wife Esther, along with receiving help every now and then from Frikkie's two daughters; the older being a chartered accountant and the younger finishing school this year (2022).
Processing of Wild Rooibos
Frikkie's wild rooibos is harvested by hand during the summer months (from November to March). This stage is very labour-intensive, and the whole family tends to help out.
Then, the crop is cut to lengths of between 1.5mm and 5mm, and bruised and moistened to 60%. After that, fermentation (enzymatic oxidation) of the rooibos takes eight to 12 hours at a temperature of between 34°C – 38°C. During this process the characteristic aroma and red colour truly comes to life.
The rooibos is then spread thinly on concrete drying yards to dry, and then sorted and graded by length, colour, flavour, and taste, before being pasteurised by steam.
But rooibos isn't the only thing on the farm - there's also game, sheep, cattle, passion fruit, and grain.
The Father of Rooibos
Frikkie's great grandfather, Dr. Pieter Le Fras Nortier, was known as 'the Father of Rooibos'.
One century ago, local rooibos farmers were struggling to produce rooibos commercially to meet demand. Or at least, that was until Dr. Nortier came in.
Nortier was an avid naturalist and problem-solver, and as such, he began
collecting seeds from the Pakhuis Mountains and the Grootkloof valley to
attempt to grow rooibos on a larger scale. There, he discovered that the seeds
would need to undergo scarification (where a layer of seeds would be placed
between two mill stones to grind away some of the seed pod wall) before
being planted in acidic, sandy soil, to truly flourish.
However, the seeds were still very difficult to come by. As such, Nortier paid the
local villagers £5 for each matchbox of seeds that they could find. One notable
collector was an aged Khoi woman who followed a group of ants who had
been dragging the seeds behind them, subsequently popping open their nest
and resulting in a pretty decent payment.
The sheer amount of time and effort that Nortier put into his research was
ultimately worth it as not only was the cultivation was a grand success, but he
was able to pass on that knowledge to other farmers to germinate their own
seeds. Very soon after, the price of seeds rose to £80/ pound: the most
expensive vegetable seed in the world.
Now, these first selected rooibos seeds are known as the Nortier-type and
Redtea-type. You will find these propelling the rooibos industry... and it's all
thanks to Frikkie's great grandfather (and his son, PJ Olivier, who was the first
Chairman of the Rooibos Tea Board).
Photographs courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/DrPieterLeFrasNortier
After months of talking to and learning from Frikkie, we receive our first ever shipment of his wild rooibos!!!!!!!! We are now ready to share this delicious discovery with you all :)
The rooibos is harvested by hand and ready to undergo the processing stage!