CAPE TOWN, Feb 24– One of South Africa’s favourite and rarest indigenous herbal teas, Honeybush, is in danger of extinction with conservationists putting the blame on unsustainable harvesting practices over the past decade.
The Honeybush plant grows naturally in the mountain ranges of the country’s Southern and Eastern Cape regions with six of its 23 species used commercially, one of them to make herbal tea. Just like its cousin, the famous rooibos tea, Honeybush tea is rich in anti-oxidants, with several health benefits.
Currently there are about 200 hectares of cultivated Honeybush and this has authorities concerned.
Carli Bunding-Venter, the manager for economic develop of George Municipality in the Southern cape region of Western cape Province, said Sunday: “The nature conservation entities in both the Western and Eastern Cape (provinces) should be commended for the work they are doing to try and work with the industry to protect it for the long run. These include things like permits and regulations.”
Nurseries have been built to encourage the development of Honeybush plantations.
Marius van Wyk of herbal tea producer Honeybush Tea said the nurseries were supplying the company with the tea, accounting for easily up to 90 per cent of the tea processed by the company “because we don’t want to put pressure on the natural tea”.
That was the reason why the company was obtaining its tea from plantations because it enabled the company to plan its production as they could determine exactly how much they would get per hectare.
Demand for Honeybush Tea far outweighs supply. Eighty percent of it is exported to the United States, Germany and Brtiain.
The challenge is to ensure that the Honeybush plant thrives and continues to delight tea lovers with its soothing qualities.