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According to Kies (1), the earliest mention of the honeybush plant in botanical literature was in 1705. Its botanical name, Cyclopia, is derived from the Greek
words cyclos (a circle) and pous (a food). Leaf shape and size differ within the species, but are mostly thin, needle-like to elongated, broadish leaves. During the flowering period the bushes are easily recognized in the field as they are
covered with distinctive, deep-yellow flowers, which have a characteristic sweet honey scent, from which the tea acquires its name. (2)
Honeybush is harvested during the flowering period. Cyclopia intermedia and Cyclopia subternata flower in September/October while Cyclopia sessiliflora flowers in May/June. The raw material is cut prior to fermentation to promote the curing, or fermentation process. Traditionally the herb was fermented in heaps, covered with canvas, for three to five days. Today this process takes place in specially designed ovens, resulting in a consistent
quality. The leaf is pasteurized to the same specifications as Rooibos, to eliminate any contaminants or mold. The product is then sun-dried to develop its final color and inspected for quality and purity prior to distribution.
Honeybush is normally consumed with milk and sugar, but to appreciate the delicate sweet taste and flavor, no milk or sugar should be added. Descriptions of the flavor vary from that of hot apricot jam, floral, honey-like and dried fruit mix with
the overall impression of sweetness. The cold infusion can be used as an iced tea or blended with fruit juices for a refreshing summer beverage.
Honeybush is an herbal infusion and has many health properties associated with the regular consumption of tea. It has very low tannin content and contains no caffeine.
1. Kies, P.: Revison on the genus Cyclopia and notes on some other sources of
bush tea (1951), In: Bothalia 6, pp. 161-176
2. Kamara, B.I.: Structure and synthesis of phenolic metabolites from Honeybush
Tea (Cyclopia Intermedia), Master of Science, Department of Chemistry, Faculty
of Natural Sciences at the University of Orange Free State Bloemfontein, Nov.