Learn all about honeybush tea.
Honeybush tea, named for it's natural sweetness and the honey-like smell of its flowers, is a plant native to South Africa used to make tea.
Like its close cousin rooibos, the honeybush plant is not the same species as traditional tea and so is considered a herbal tea.
The honeybush tea plant is a member of the legume family.
In 2000, wild cultivation of honeybush accounted for most of the 125 tons produced annually—a relatively small tea in the tea industry.
But honeybush tea has been gaining popularity. A short 15 years later, over 300 tons of honeybush tea is produced on a yearly basis, mostly in South Africa.
Honeybush Tea Cultivation
The process of growing honeybush tea is difficult and arduous, but yields great tasting results for herbal tea lovers.
The honeybush tree grows in small parts of South Africa, particularly in the southeast and southwest regions of the country. The plant enjoys the climate by the coast, but even in its natural environment, expert farmers work tirelessly to create the best tasting honeybush teas.
Before planting honeybush plants, a farmer must come by the highest quality seeds. One way of testing seed quality is putting seeds in a jug of water to see which float. Any seed that floats is determined unfit for planting and is discarded.
The next step is to treat the seed; the farmer will damage the outer seed shell in order to encourage moisture uptake during the germination phase.
A typical day for a South African honeybush (or rooibos) farmer during the harvesting season—January to April—looks like this: Farmers leave home at 5:00 am to turn fermentation heaps on the drying yard (where honeybush and rooibos are laid out to dry). After continuing this for most of the day, the farmer heads home around nightfall, after a mere 13 or so hours of hard labor.
But man does honeybush tea taste so good! Thank you farmers!
The honeybush plant is one that grows best in extreme climates, which makes cultivation and growing even more difficult. The plant enjoys extreme weather conditions and must be cultivated during the coldest part of the year during heavy rainfall.
Harvesting Honeybush Tea
The tea itself is made from the shoots of the shrub. To process honeybush, farmers chop the stems and leaves into small pieces.
Once chopped into small pieces, the wet heap is left alone to ferment.
This process usually requires an oven set to 60 - 70 degrees C.
After drying, the delicious golden red bits are ready for export.
Enjoying Delicious Honeybush Tea
Unlike green tea, which changes in flavor after long brewing, it is possible to leave honeybush brewing for many minutes without getting a bitter cup of tea.
In fact, many South African locals brew honeybush on the stove as a way of filling their home with a pleasant aroma until they are ready to consume the sweet herbal beverage.
In traditional tea style, honeybush is often consumed with milk and sugar, but doing so makes it impossible to enjoy the subtle flavor of the tea itself. We recommend trying it straight and then adding a bit of honey and lemon as you go until you find your preferred flavor.
People often compare honeybush flavor to apricot jam or a dried fruit mix. We find that a dash of lemon and honey makes for a perfect cup of honeybush tea!
While hot honeybush tea is most typical, it is possible to create a delicious iced honeybush tea as well. Brew using the hot method, then let cool and pour over ice.
Honeybush Health Benefits
Like the rooibos plant, honeybush is relatively low in amino acids compared to traditional tea, although it has plenty of antioxidants.
It is caffeine-free, which makes it popular with those that want a warm, flavorful, and rich drink at night.
As early as 1881, the Khoisan, an indigenous people of South Africa, were recorded using honeybush for the treatment of coughs and upper respiratory problems.
Today, it is used for the same purpose and modern science points towards a chemical in the plant called “pinotol,” which is known to soothe the throat and lungs.
Beyond soothing coughs, pinotol has blood-sugar lowering effects in laboratory studies and thus helps fight against diabetes and inflammation.
Honeybush is one of our favorite herbal teas and earned it's spot in the Wild Tea lineup as #13 Honeybush.
There's a reason it's becoming one of the more popular herbal teas on the market... and I highly recommend learning why this is for yourself!