Benjamin Ginsberg (businessman)
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The Bushmen, who lived in the area, first discovered that the fine, needle-like leaves of the "Aspalathus Linearis" plant made a distinctive, aromatic tea. For centuries, they had harvested the wild-growing plants, chopped them with axes and then bruised them with hammers, leaving them to ferment in heaps before drying them in the sun. In 1904, Benjamin Ginsberg started trading the tea from the Bushmen, distributing and marketing it throughout the Cape. Ginsberg was descended from a family that had been in the tea industry in Europe for centuries and this provided him with the necessary experience to market the tea successfully. Although a direct heir to the three family baronies, Ginsberg refrained from using his title.
By the late 1920s, growing demand for the tea led to problems with supply of the wild Red Bush plants. Working with his friend, a local GP and keen botanist, Ginsberg used innovative germination techniques to cultivate the tea under production.
After Benjamin's death in 1944, his son Charles took over the business, introducing sophisticated machinery to cut the unusual leaves and building large “courts” on his farms in which to dry and cure the tea under the hot Cederberg sun. He was soon supplying tea seed to hundreds of farmers and promoting his Eleven O' Clock brand and its healthful properties (e.g. caffeine-free) across a variety of channels, including cinema advertising, which was still new to South Africa. Charles began distributing internationally and, although he sold the business in the 1970s, the brand is still widely distributed and the distinctive 1940's Eleven O' Clock packaging, depicting a mother and daughter serving tea, remains almost unchanged.
In the 1990s, spurred on by greater consumer awareness of different teas, brand diversity and mainstream distribution (particularly through supermarkets), international demand for Red Bush tea increased dramatically.