Origin and Distribution
Between the great mountain ranges separating the edge of the Karoo from the southern shores of Africa, there is a narrow coastal plain stretching some 250km from the town of George in the west to the eastern limits of the Tsitsikamma mountain range. This territory is the home of the Honeybush plant. The area is known as the Garden Route, a region where nature has bestowed her many riches with a generous abundance of wild flowers and the largest expanse of indigenous forest in South Africa.
The Honeybush plant is a shrub of the Fabacea family which only grows in specific places in the fynbos biome of the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces of South Africa.
Honeybush (Cyclopia spp.) is well adapted to the climate and soil conditions of the Cape mountain ranges and coastal plain where it grows naturally in well drained, sandy to sandy loam soils. Honeybush populations are mainly found on the cooler, wetter southern slopes.
All Cyclopia species are long-lived perennials that can reach heights of up to 2 metres. The Honeybush tea plant is a many-branched woody shrub with golden yellow stems and trifoliate elongated leaves. The life span of the bush in the wild is around 15 years.
During the flowering period in spring (September to October), the bushes are easily recognised as they are covered with distinctive, deep-yellow flowers, which have a characteristic sweet honey scent.
The use of Honeybush was first documented in 1705. In 1772 the Swedish botanist Thunberg recorded that he found “honigtee” during one of his field trips in the Cape. The earliest record of the early Cape colonists using it as a medicinal plant dates back to 1830. The Scientist reported in 1881, after scientific research, that the herbal tea was caffeine free.
In the Langkloof (Afrikaans for ‘long valley’) along the slopes of the Tsitsikamma mountains, the Honeybush plants are harvested. Their leaves and stems are then cut, fermented and dried to produce a pleasant, mildly sweet and highly aromatic tea with an impressive variety of health promoting properties.