The Rooibos tea industry is the oldest indigenous industry in South Africa. The Khoisan people who lived in the Clanwilliam and Cedarberg area drank Rooibos tea. They harvested it by cutting the twigs with an axe, bruised it with wooden hammers, left it in heaps to ferment and finally dried the fermented material in the sun. Today, Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is still processed in much the same manner, although techniques and apparatus are a little more advanced.

As rooibos became more acclaimed and health benefits became known through word of mouth, researchers showed increasing interest in compounds present in the plant. They found that rooibos is naturally caffeine free, low in tannin content, contains some minerals and nutrients and is ideal as a fluid replacement for infants and athletes. The nutritional value of the tea is not enough to sustain the daily minimum requirements of a normal body. However, nutrition is not the principal health benefit of the plant. Rooibos contains flavonoids and phenolic acids, which are powerful antioxidants. Exposure to solar radiation is one of several factors contributing to production of superoxide radicals. The human body needs additional anti-oxidants to optimize its defense against cancer and oxidative stress. Rooibos, high in anti-oxidants is therefore a perfect health drink and skin product.