This year will see Laager Rooibos – the second biggest Rooibos brand worldwide – celebrating 75 years of being part of South African homes. The brand, which now includes the Laager Rooibos Herbal and Laager Tea4Kidz product ranges, has lived through some of the history books’ most interesting time periods.
1945 was a year which began with the world at war, and ended with the signing of the United Nations Charter. Three quarters of a century later, and things have changed the world over – and back home. We now have a democratically elected government, 11 official languages, and one of the most revered constitutions globally. However, despite these massive shifts, Laager Rooibos, which was founded in 1945, is still one of South Africa’s best loved tea brands.
A story told in the tea leaves
The history of Rooibos dates back possibly thousands of years when this tea was first used by South Africa’s KhoiSan people as a medicinal herb – the leaves harvested from the Aspalathus Linearis plant were used to make natural remedies for a variety of ailments.
Grown exclusively on the Cederberg Mountains of the Western Cape, Rooibos was produced commercially for the first time in the 1930s, making Laager Rooibos one of the first commercial Rooibos tea brands in existence. Rooted in history, the brand heroes its origins among the Rooibos fields and Cederberg Mountains which form the iconic backdrop to the Laager Rooibos box.
Many countries have tried, and failed, to grow Rooibos with the Cederberg region the only place where this natural herb thrives. Although the processing of Rooibos has been refined and mechanised over the years, it is not that far removed from how it was traditionally harvested and processed. Bunches of leaves were rolled into hessian bags and transported down the mountain by donkeys, at which point the leaves and stems were chopped and then bruised with mallets before being left to ferment, and later spread out and dried under the hot African sun.
Over the years, the many health benefits of Rooibos have been uncovered, in large part thanks to the extensive research funded by The South African Rooibos Council, a body of which Laager Rooibos is a part. These health benefits are now widely acknowledged and have contributed significantly to the growing popularity of Rooibos, not only in South Africa but across the globe, with several popular figures and celebrities touting its natural benefits.
A tradition of strength and community
Even during the toughest times, the Laager Rooibos brand has been a beacon of hope for many. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the brand has provided online educational support for parents and caregivers, as well as donating goods where needed.
Laager Rooibos has seen good growth in sales during the lockdown period, as many have sought to take advantage of the many health benefits of Rooibos tea. As The South African Rooibos Council (SARC) has noted, the health benefits that Rooibos boasts make it the perfect pantry staple right now. Laager Rooibos is also the only tea that carries The Heart & Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) stamp of approval – a symbol that is used to identify heart and brain-healthy food and beverages.
The Laager Rooibos brand continues to find innovative ways to engage with and uplift South African communities through the Joekels Communitea Foundation. Using this platform, the brand is supporting heart health, children’s organisations, non-profit organisations and local businesses.
“It’s been such a fulfilling experience being a part of the Laager Rooibos journey, watching the brand grow over the years and evolve to meet different needs,” said Jonathan Kelsey, Co-Founder of Joekels Tea Packers, manufacturers of Laager Rooibos. “We’ve benefited from various partnerships over the years, including our endorsement from the HSFSA and our partnership with Laager ambassadors and dynamic South African chefs, Lebo and Tebo Ndala (@Withlovefromthetwins). And while the brand continues to evolve, the strong, refreshing taste of Laager Rooibos has remained consistent over the years – because strength is our tradition.”
Joe Swart, Kelsey’s business partner and Joekels Co-Founder and -Director added, “There are so many exciting new projects in the pipeline for the Laager Rooibos brand – we might be 75 years in but this is just the start. We will continue to find innovative ways to strengthen our connection with South African communities, and we look forward to the many adventures we will embark on together.”