Alumni who tuned into the Faculty of AgriSciences's first virtual Women's Day event hopefully all had a warm cup of rooibos tea nearby while listening to a talk on the production of this indigenous tea. It was presented by Lize du Preez, a director of the rooibos tea company Carmién Tea. The event was held on Thursday 13 August in collaboration with the University's Alumni Office.
Du Preez is in charge of national and international marketing and sales at Carmién Tea, where she has been working since 2011. Her mother, Mientjie Mouton, founded it in 1998 on the farm Brakfontein in the Citrusdal area.
Du Preez is a former Matie who studied BA Socioinformatics at SU in the 2000s, and also obtained a postgraduate diploma in marketing from the institution.
In the spirit of Women's Month (and quite appropriate for Covid-19 times too, hence the virtual event), Du Preez began her talk with a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “A woman is like a tea bag - you cannot tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water."
Du Preez provided an overview of how rooibos, which is native to South Africa, is farmed on only about 70 000 hectares, and the various processes needed to produce a cup of tea.
The lion's share of rooibos is consumed by South Africans, but it also has a strong following among Asian and European consumers. According to Du Preez, about 95% of Carmién Tea's products are exported.
She highlighted how the industry came into being thanks to the interest of a local doctor from Clanwilliam, Dr Le Fras Nortier, and the many scientists who have contributed to its development since then. Among them are alumnus Prof Lizette Joubert of the Agricultural Research Council and an extraordinary professor in the SU Department of Food Science.
"She was the first person who had the idea to produce green rooibos tea, in line with green tea that the Japanese like to drink and use in food. Green rooibos contains even more antioxidants than fermented rooibos," noted Du Preez, who also highlighted the many health benefits contained in rooibos.
She says a sensory flavour wheel for rooibos tea is widely used by the industry. It is yet another project which was driven by SU researchers such as Dr Joubert, Nina Muller and students in the faculty.
After her talk, Du Preez answered a host of questions about the production of rooibos, and about how to ensure the perfect cup of tea.
"It depends on whether it comes in a tea bag, is brewed with loose tea leaves or 'stokkies', or is a flavoured variety," Du Preez explained.
She prefers the pyramid-shaped tea bags in which Carmién Tea's products are also packaged. She allows it to soak for at least five minutes.
"Do not add boiling water, but first wait a bit for it to cool down. Many of the healthy antioxidants are lost if you use boiling water. Water at 60 degrees Celsius is the best."