what is red espresso®?

red espresso® is no ordinary tea. It’s also not your typical espresso.

Reimagining Rooibos into an espresso, red espresso® opens up the world of coffee-style beverages to those who don’t drink coffee or are trying to avoid caffeine.

Beyond wholesomely good red cappuccinos, macchiatos, lattes and Americanos, it also goes where coffee can’t: into refreshingly different iced teas, juices and smoothies bursting with flavour and real goodness from the Earth. red espresso® is also unbelievably delicious meaning that, just as cappuccinos can be naturally caffeine-free, being healthy doesn’t mean giving up on great taste – or the lifestyle that you love.

red espresso® is a choice. Some call it a healthy choice. For us, it’s a choice between whether you see things as black or white – or are willing to see things differently to how you saw them before. It’s a new way to drink Rooibos; a new way to enjoy café culture; a new way to be healthy. A new way to be. Like an espresso that’s also tea.

Our Story


red espresso® was born in a kitchen in Paarl, South Africa, in 2005. The idea came from the lateral-thinking mind and curious musings of an inspired individual who sees a world without boundaries; life with infinite possibilities. Carl Pretorius is (or was) a self-confessed coffee addict. Working from home on his olive farm and tree nursery, it was easy for Carl to drink six espressos before lunch. Harder to swallow were the bitter side-effects drinking too much caffeine left him with… and the toll it took on his health. He knew he needed to find a healthier alternative but was loathe to give up on the espresso style, ritual and intensity of taste that he loved. A cup of tea didn’t cut it – and decaf wasn’t an option. Walking into his kitchen one morning, inspiration struck. Or, as Carl describes it: he had a ‘lightbulb moment’.

Next to his espresso machine, he spotted Rooibos tea – a staple in South African households. He took a few bags, tore them open and poured them into the handle of his espresso machine. What he expressed wasn’t anything close to an espresso – it was weak and watery – but the sheer idea of enjoying the naturally caffeine-free, healthy tea in a whole new way gave Carl goosebumps.

An espresso aficionado, Carl knew that, like coffee beans, the grade of Rooibos tea he expressed would make all the difference. He set about finding coffee’s ‘Blue Mountain’ equivalent in Rooibos – and found one farm whose quality of ‘super grade’ tea, grown at highest altitude, was truly unparalleled. For a few months, Carl silently worked on refining the grind of the tea until, eventually, he was able to express a shot that delivered everything he was looking for: intensity of flavour, delicious taste and, the crowning glory of every espresso, saffron-flecked crema. Just like coffee, he could make cappuccinos, lattes, even iced teas, with his short, sweet Rooibos tea shot – and Carl knew he had found his solution to enjoying the best of both worlds: health and café style.

He took his invention to a local coffee shop in Paarl, called Kikka. Willing to give it a try, they grabbed a chalkboard, wrote ‘Rooibos cappuccino’ across it and watched with amazement as consumers, intrigued by this bizarre concept, ordered – and loved – it! Carl then took it to a renowned research facility and found out that it was even healthier than he had thought: one 60ml espresso shot had ten times the antioxidants of a traditionally-brewed cup of Rooibos tea, and five times the antioxidants of green tea.

Carl believed his innovation had huge potential and global appeal in that it could meet the need of many others who, just like him, were looking for café style and sophistication without the caffeine. He just needed the perfect partners to take it to market.


Sitting in an Internet café in Kathmandu, while on a three-month honeymoon backpacking in Asia, Pete and Monique Ethelston received an email from Carl (Pete’s long-time business partner and friend), inviting them to try a Rooibos cappuccino on their return. Within a week of coming home to Cape Town, Carl arrived at their apartment with an espresso machine in arm, and asked for their hands – and expertise – in taking his product to market.

Pete, an astute businessman with hefty FMCG experience, a spirit for adventure and a brave heart, believed in yet another one of Carl’s ideas and deemed it worth the venture capital risk and his full-time commitment as managing director. After one night of ‘sleeping on it’, Monique, an ex-Unliever, Distell and SAB Miller marketing guru, who had recently resigned from the corporate world, woke up at 6am and told Pete “I’m in” – leaving all dreams of Thai cooking classes and practicing Holistic therapies behind. It was an opportunity – and a challenge – all three could not resist: to take a homegrown innovation to the world, put a new category on the beverage map, and to create a world-class business and brand.

They called it red espresso® and it has been at the centre of Pete and Monique’s lives since 2005.


Roping in Monique’s brother, Nic Reid, in Cape Town, and Carl’s niece, Natasha Larché, in Johannesburg, the first red espresso® brand ambassadors completed the original red team. While Monique created the brand and Pete and Carl set up the business, Nic and Natasha spent their days knocking on doors, convincing café owners to put Rooibos tea in their espresso machines, and driving city-wide to make single deliveries of silver-foil 1kg packs (packed by hand, at night, in Pete and Monique’s apartment) from the boots of their cars. Admittedly, we even had to Google how to create our first invoice after delivering our first sale without one!

Seven years later and our business is very different. Except for one thing: the passion, energy and fervent belief in a very special product and its place in the world that ties together every member of the red espresso® team, both then and now.

Our Company

who we are

red espresso® is a privately-owned, proudly South African company; driven by the hearts and minds of a small group of people – and fuelled by belief and passion.

At red espresso®, we believe anything is possible. We’re a small group of strong-minded individuals – a mix of ex-corporates and entrepreneurs, friends and family – who believe in doing things differently. We break the rules. We work by ‘why not?’ We do business ‘unusual’. With a balance of professionalism, passion, flexibility and a willingness to attempt the seemingly impossible, we believe it is this business culture that has helped win red espresso® numerous international awards over the years.

what we do

Pioneers of the world’s first Rooibos tea espresso, we are responsible for everything from farm to shipment of finished goods, adding value, in our country, throughout the value chain.

We believe in long-term partnerships. We work with companies – in foodservice and in retail – who share a similar ethos to us: who work by the same code of ethics and passion as we do. As red espresso® is not a commodity but a premium product, we believe in slow-growth and in fostering transparent, long-term relationships with all our partners.

We only source the best quality Rooibos tea. Our Rooibos is grown wild on the Cedarberg Mountains at highest altitude, where the plant grows slowly and hence tastes stronger; in a place where intensive farming is not feasible and growth is dictated by nature. Dealing directly with our farmers, with full traceability, we pay a premium price for our single estate tea to ensure that there is sufficient payment for all those that participate in growing and harvesting our Rooibos.

We add value to our country so as to create change. We are helping to build a future for South Africa and are committed to ensuring that the full value chain of red espresso® is enjoyed in South Africa, working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry in this regard.

We promote Rooibos as a uniquely South African product. We have been active members of the South African Rooibos Council since red espresso® was launched in 2005. Our single biggest contribution to the council is sharing our marketing knowledge and expertise.

We are environmentally conscious. We all share in the desire to look after Earth and are doing this in a number of ways:

  • Our farm has the highest biodiversity rating amongst all Rooibos farmers in industry
  • We have partnered with Cape Nature Conservation in our Red Cedar Project to replant the indigenous, highly-endangered Clanwilliam Cedar trees into the Cedarberg.
  • red espresso®’s first carbon footprint will be completed by June 2013 and it is our intention to be carbon-neutral and fully off-set our emissions.
  • Our new headquarters being built this year will be a green building that features energy-efficient building designs and materials, solar energy, rain water harvesting and other green initiatives.

We strive to be able to do more in the future.

why we do it

red espresso® is everything we’ve ever wanted from a business. It’s good. It’s honest. It’s real. It represents everything we believe in and the world we want to live in; a world where value is based on a different kind of currency, where life is respected and anything is possible.

It is our dream to have a homegrown, globally-known product and to remain a small, privately-owned company; one that cares for its people and the environment and interacts with its consumers with heart, passion and integrity.

meet the team

Pete Ethelston

Co-founder / Managing Director

Accumulating heavyweight FMCG experience both within and consulting to companies such as Unilever South Africa, Coca-Cola Philippines, Makro Thailand, and KFC Philippines, Pete has spent the last 12 years in the Cape, co-founding red espresso® and Just Trees. An ardent traveller, his favourite pastime is being in Nature, especially with his two daughters and wife Monique.

Monique Ethelston

Mother of the Brand

Monique worked at Unilever for 5 years in trade marketing before joining Distell as global brand manager, followed by a 2-year stint at TNS heading the SAB Miller account. As passionate about health and living a balanced life with her family as she is about cracking marketing strategy, Monique not only found her dream brand to work on – she created it.

Carl Pretorius

Co-founder / Inventor

Inventor, serial entrepreneur, olive farmer, espresso lover, foodie, greenie, husband, father are words one could try to use to describe the altruistic individual who is Carl. Co-founder and Managing Director of red espresso®’s sister company, Just Trees, Carl loves WOW ideas, social heroes, biomimicry, human ingenuity, sustainable development and anything innovative.

Oliver Ryder

Chief Financial Officer

Tall and British, our business wouldn’t be the same without Oliver’s incredible input – financial, strategic and sustainable. With experience ranging from working at Price Waterhouse London to safari guiding in Zambia, he is the financial director of a host of businesses – including red espresso® and Just Trees. With a strong interest in sustainability, he is a registered carbon footprint assessor.

Natasha Larché

Global Brand Manager

When Natasha completed her Journalism degree, she had no idea her first 9-5 would be selling tea out the boot of her car… but it’s crazy what passion and belief can lead one to do. Having grown with the business, she now manages the brand across all markets. Affectionately known as Lu, she loves writing, good food and wine, her friends and family. She’s also a DJ and practices Kung Fu.

Carina Jordaan

South African Sales Manager

Passionate and charismatic, Carina drives red sales in retail and foodservice in South Africa. Born in the Free State, and having completed a B.Com Marketing degree at the University of Johannesburg, Carina left the Big Smoke for the exquisite Western Cape. She has a very strong sales background and, with a mean handicap, enjoys a round of golf.

Leonie Hugo

Office Manager

Our accounts and logistics expert, Leonie is also our ‘flight controller’ - who keeps our office running smoothly. With fantastic accounting, operations, and logistics experience, Leonie (‘Wonder-woman’) is also completing her degree in Industrial Psychology. She spends her free time soaking up the beautiful winelands region with her husband and daughter.

Kirsty Reid


Not only is Kirsty Monique’s sister (we like keeping things in the family) but she is an incredible design talent who has had a fundamental impact on our brand look and feel. With years of experience in graphic design and art direction on glossy magazines, Kirsty is an ardent yoga (and sushi) enthusiast. She enjoys drawing, spending time with friends and family and living a mindful life.

Clint Meyer


Clint is the newest recruit to our red team. A Paarl native, he left the region to pursue his rugby talent for 6 years and, on his return, joined red espresso® as our production assistant and despatch controller – with great energy and gusto. Clint is also an upcoming Barista and red brand ambassador. He makes a sensationally good red cappuccino®.

Hannes Du Toit

Production Manager

With a diploma in Agriculture and over 20 years’ experience in FMCG production, Hannes joined the red team in 2013 to manage our production – and ensure that every pack of red espresso® meets his stringent standards of perfection. Creative, passionate, with a huge heart and excellent sense of humour, Hannes loves nothing more than to cook, paint, fish and spend time with his beautiful wife and their menagerie of animals.

Tobias Jiyane

Johannesburg Brand Ambassador

Hailing from Zimbabwe, Tobias has been our Johannesburg red espresso® brand ambassador since 2007. A barista and barista trainer extraordinaire, Tobias is our eyes, ears and salesman on the ground in our biggest market in South Africa, and his steadfast passion and commitment has a great deal to do with the region’s success. We are very proud to have Tobias on our team.

Siegfried Grimbeek

Digital and Online

Passionate about the brand, the culture and overall goodness of red espresso®, Siegfried hopped on board at the end of 2012. Siegfried completed his Bcom Informatics (Hons) and now devotes his time and effort to online marketing and exposure. Siegfried enjoys music and blogging and, in his spare time, likes to write about indie artisits yet to be discovered.

The future of espresso is red