When does gratitude supersede expectation?
When we still have a harvest, albeit 30% less than expectation.
When we still have water, albeit less than we require.
When we can still fill our orders , even if it is on our knees most of the time.
And, when we know that what goes down, must come up again, that summer always precedes winter, and that drought will eventually be relieved by rain. And we are grateful. Grateful also for those who fight the battle with us and give their all so that eventually we can all get through this.
Its harvest time.
5 am. Before the sun has lifted its head behind the Cederberg mountains, sickles are rhythmically cutting handfuls of rooibos. 50 men a field. Each bundle carefully laid on a small sail until it is full. Two hooks join the cuttings into a sheaf that can stand on its own.
Each sheaf weighs in at between 18-25 kgs, is carefully documented, and soon, like an army of watchmen waiting to see if their buddies are going to make it, an area of stacked sheaves gets cleared and loaded onto a waiting truck. The cutters take a welcome break and then it is back to the sickle and sheaf as the morning cool makes way for blazing hot days.
To reach minimum wage, 350 kgs has to be cut per worker per day. Some way exceed that with averages between 550-650 kgs per day so there is great reward in the hard work.
6 am. Higher up in the valley at Bergendal Rooibos, long rows of cut, fermenting tea have been building up steamy temperatures of up to 42 degrees Celsius overnight. As the covering sails are lifted and the tea is given one more turning over, a thick mist rises up, obscuring your view, and that familiar sweet rooibos smell permeates the air. It is a beautiful experience. What landed on the court yesterday as green tea, has now miraculously turned red. The wonder of rooibos.
State of the art machines suck up the tea and two rotating arms scatter it thinly over the tea court for a few hours of drying in the hot sun. Each batch carefully documented and monitored to ensure full traceability. Once again it is gathered up into 400 kg bags and now batch after batch goes through a sifting process, separating dust from tea leaves and shaking out mulch at the end. Cut lengths are monitored, batches are sifted and blended according to each client’s requirements and then sent through a pasteurizer and finally hot air drying before being bagged, weighed and shrink-wrapped per palette, ready to be shipped or moved next door to the packing facility.
Behind the scenes, temperatures are checked, batch after batch is tasted, noted, quality checks carried out and finally certification approval before one gram of tea can leave the factory.
In the meantime truck after truck arrives with freshly cut sheaves. It is weighed, offloaded, each sheaf opened, separated, and fed though a cutting machine which cuts even lengths of between 1-5 mm. The bruised green cuttings are fed via conveyer belt into a wagon from where it will be dumped in long low rows to ferment overnight and so the process repeats itself.
Day after day.
Its always worth it. We love what we do.