and it’s 43˚C in the shade. Except there isn’t any shade on the high, wind-parched plateaus of the Cederberg. Watched over by San paintings, Boltwin Tamboer and five others harvest rooibos the oldfashioned way: removing the top two-thirds of the waist-high bushes with simple metal sickles before gathering the woody green stems in bundles the size of a boerboel.
Almost exactly ten thousand miles away, in a trendy Portland cafe, a bearded barista pulls a shot of Red Espresso from his gleaming La Marzocco GB5 before topping it with a feathery almond-milk spume and a dash of organic honey. He’s been at it all morning: The cafe’s mountain-biking, software-coding, yoga-practising patrons can’t get enough of the new beverage that’s naturally caffeine-free, packed with antioxidants, and downright delicious to boot.
Red Espresso, the 2005 brainchild of husband-and-wife team Pete and Monique Ethelston and their friend Carl Pretorius, is the previously missing link that connects Boltwin Tamboer and his San ancestors with those Portland hipsters. By grinding top-notch, high-altitude rooibos to a powdery consistency and extracting it under nine bars of pressure, they have spawned a beverage category that straddles the health and cafe markets like no other.
In addition to being naturally caffeine free, Red Espresso claims its drink contains 10 times more antioxidants than gewone rooibos. It boasts a bold, satisfying flavour profile that works a treat used in cappuccinos, lattes, frappes, macchiatos and more. The global shift towards health and wellness (it’s said to be the next trilliondollar industry) has helped the product make inroads. ‘ We used to have a hard time convincing people to try our product,’ says Monique. ‘ But we now find consumers and cafes very open to the idea of a naturally caffeinefree coffee alternative.’
Monique’s role as marketing director is made easier by her product’s quantifiable health benefits. Red Espresso is packed to the jowls with the powerful antioxidant found only in rooibos. Aspalathin fights free radicals caused by the sun, pollution and stress and thus helps to prevent premature ageing, heart disease and cancer.
Because it’s naturally caffeinefree, Red Espresso helps you to sleep better at night while also reducing your levels of stress, soothing muscle tension, easing nasal congestion and aiding in hydration. The zinc contained in Red Espresso amps up the immune system, helps your metabolism and even assists in healing wounds.
Even better, Red Espresso is great for the whole family: It soothes infant colic and has a blessedly calming effect on kids who tend towards acting a little too unruly.
And as Carolina Tristao, the Brazilian coffee guru who has recently started marketing Red Espresso in America, says, ‘It’s a superfood that’s indulgent... I’m still waiting for the downside.’