by Bruce Ginsberg (’64)
Chas Ginsberg, the Clanwilliam farmer who became known as the “Rooibos King” after he turned the Cederberg region into the “Ceylon of Africa”, died in London during April, at age 92.
Chas Ginsberg is credited with having domesticated one of the few wild food plants in the world and turning it into a major agricultural crop. With his flair for marketing, the “11 O’clock Rooibos Tea” brand” became, and still is a popular national and international beverage.
Rooibos in its wild state occurred sparsely on the slopes of the Cederberg mountains. Chas and his father, Barend, encouraged a local doctor to experiment with propagation. He managed to successfully germinate the rooibos seed and the Ginsbergs then persuaded their friends among the local farmers to begin planting as an auxiliary crop.
In the early 1940’s Chas laid out the first dedicated large-scale rooibos plantations on Die Berg, Môreson and Stillerus farms.
He also owned Capsa Tea Company whose Grandiflora and Cyclopia brands were for many years the only commercially packed honeybush available on the South African market.
He also developed new technologies for drying the tea and introduced sophisticated cutting machinery used by the tea industry in India.
In the late 1950’s he began transforming large parts of his farm into vineyards and planted a million-and-a-half pine trees and a range of orchards.
Chas was born on March12, 1913 and came to SACS at the age of eight not being able to speak a word of English. He became a rugby player of note, captaining the Clanwilliam rugby team as well as playing for North Westerns. After the Second World War, in which he was an officer, he played for Hamiltons Rugby Club with his old friend, the legendry Springbok fullback, Gerry Brand.
He leaves three children.