Blog posts tagged "south africa"

Rooibos is Calling Me Back

February 25th, 2003

Upon returning to the North East several months ago, I moved into a lovely Providence house, with 3 delightful strangers. One of the strange convergences we have found is that 3 of us have spent considerable time in South Africa. (and want to go back)

Which is why it is strange to all of a sudden be finding rooibos popping up everywhere. Rooibos is a uniquely South African herbal tea (a tisane) made from some plant found around the Western Cape. Its a sweet, fruity tea. And I’ve never seen it anywhere else, not even in Perth which was crawling with Cape Town expatriates. Now its started showing up at local coffee shops (Espresso Royale was pushing free cups of it last time I was there), and on the shelves’ of Whole Foods.

And so I found myself staring at five Republic of Tea “Red Tea” offerings in highly decorative, probably collectible tins. I don’t remember this plurality of choices: Botswana Blossom (“scent of rose petals”), Safari Sunset (“cinnamon, cloves and orange”), Good Hope Vanilla, Capetown Harvest, and Cedarberg. My hand wavered towards the Cedarberg, some distant memory telling me that Cedarberg played an important role in the history of rooibos and was most likely to be authentic.

It seemed like a good idea, share it with my other South African nostalgics. And then I remembered, that I wouldn’t call rooibos a “pleasant memory”. And it all came back to me; being out in the bush for 2 weeks, with the only tea this weird red stuff, soaking rock hard unsweetened biscotti like things (hmm, what were those called? must check my journals) in it for breakfast. And the slow dawning realization that this was the only tea Paul had packed, and it was utterly devoid of caffeine or anything else vaguely resembling a pick me up. So at nearly $9 for a rather small container, I put it back on the shelf, and bought some nice Earl Grey.

Dew on the Proteas

April 20th, 2002

Santa Cruz slows you down. Around 9 at night, I start scratching at the walls, the everything starts to shut down, especially out in Soquel where my parents live. But mornings are different.

I was out at the farmers market this morning. Gorgeous spinach, and broccolli are a given at farmers markets this time of year. But the tables and tables of beautiful, glistening mushrooms, shittake, oysters, boar heards, are clearly so fresh I doubt if the people who picked them have slept. And they smell so good, its a cliche to say mushrooms smell earthy, but they do, you feel like you could be out in the garden double digging a bed. Its enough to make you want to drop it all (cities, politics, computers) and go join John Jeavons on his farm. There are four tables of flowers, iris, sweet peas, a few orchids, and everythere there are proteas.

Proteas everywhere? Big spiky flowers, in fleshy pinks, famous for smelling like rotting flesh (though these don’t seem to have any scent at all) They remind me of when I lived in Cape Town, and hiking around Table Mountain, and walking the 10 blocks to spend an afternoon in Kirstenbosch.

But what are proteas, native only to the Cape, doing in such proliferations in a California farmers’ market, some 14,000 miles away?