Watch the video here: www.rooibostea.co.za/video-sewefontein
600m above sea level, on a mountain called Gifberg, Dave Schlebusch farms organic Rooibos tea.
"I do it in my own way," says Schlebusch, "in a way that works together with nature."
A nature enthusiast, Schlebusch has made a deliberate choice to farm his Rooibos in small quantities, preserving his farm's biodiversity. Since arriving on the farm thirty years ago, Schlebusch has planted only a few Rooibos lands.
On his farm, called Sewefontein (Afrikaans for "seven fountains"), there are species of Fynbos (a plant kingdom exclusive to South Africa) that are found nowhere else in the world. The farm is popular among local tourists who enjoy off-grid weekends without electricity or cell reception. Guests are treated to beautiful nature walks, an abundance of bird species, and stunning flowers.
Schlebusch's organic method is not an easy one. He uses no chemicals on his crops and his crops are harvested by hand. His small team navigates rugged terrains to reach the remote fields.
"There are patterns in nature," says Schlebusch, "and you need to understand those patterns, and work with them. Nature tells me what to do. I don't own it. It is a given, and it is my duty to protect it."
The most unique and challenging aspect of the operations on Sewefontein is the processing of the tea. Rooibos tea is fermented and dried in the African sun on tea courts, where it develops its aroma and taste.
Whereas conventional Rooibos farmers use commercial tea courts made of concrete, Schlebusch uses a small rockface tea court that he found on his farm.
Because the rock face is naturally uneven, Schlebusch can only process the tea in small quantities using minimal mechanical aid. Everything is moved and processed using primitive methods, reminiscent of the early days of Rooibos farming in the 1800s.
Schlebusch has a hands-on approach, often working the tea court by himself or with a very small team. "It's challenging," Schlebusch says, "but I love every minute of it."
The minerals in the rock face also give the Rooibos a unique taste. Guests at Sewefontein are always treated to a pot of tea fresh from the tea court, brewed on the stove according to traditional methods.
As sustainability and biodiversity become ever more important in the tea world, Schlebusch's farm is an example to us all.
"In nature, if you do it with love, nature will give that love back to you in another way," Schlebusch says.