Honeybush. The name itself sounds sweet and pleasant.
Honeybush (Cyclopia sp.)—also known as mountain or cape tea—probably takes its name from its yellow, honey-scented flowers. Native to South Africa, there are 23 documented species of honeybush, each thriving in a specific environment, from coastal to mountainous.
Today, 70% of the honeybush produced comes from these wild shrubs, according to the South African Honeybush Tea Association (SAHTA), although the annual harvest is small (only about 200 tons).
However, farmers—encouraged by the honeybush industry that hopes to “relieve the pressure on wild honey bush populations . . . [and] control and protect wild honeybush, thereby ensuring sustainable harvesting” (SAHTA)— have started to cultivate several species.
Indeed, as more people learn about this delicious tisane and its multiple health benefits, demand is likely to grow.
From shrub to cup
To harvest honeybush, twigs bearing needle-like leaves are cut from the shrubs. The processing stages are similar to those of rooibos, with the twigs and leaves first chopped; then moistened and layered (sweated), and sometimes heated, to develop the flavor; and then finally dried.
Because there are so many honeybush species—each with its very own flavor—several varieties may be combined during production.
And you do want to drink this elixir!
This tea is low in tannins, high in antioxidants, and considered to be caffeine free. According to the SAHTA, there is preliminary evidence that it has an effect on cancer, works similarly to human estrogen, and may protect “postmenopausal women against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.”
But even if all that isn’t enough, consider that brewed honeybush yields an earthy flavor that is subtly sweet. Yummm.