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Women of the Old Cape – a lesson in hospitality

South Africans are known for their hospitality. In the days of the early Cape, travellers and writers wrote in letters and journals about the kindness with which they were received and catered for, and today still, although it might be on alternative platforms, South Africans are praised for their exceptional hospitality.

While in the old days, the men surely were just as welcoming and especially enjoyed serving a soetsopie (an Old Cape custom to offer guests some sweet wine with their tea or coffee), it was the lady of the house who constantly had some coffee or bossie tea (honey or rooibos) bubbling on the warmer. For Women’s Month, we would like to celebrate the early hospitality of the ladies of the Cape, caring for guests, visitors and those in need knocking on their door.

Although in those days, coffee and local bossie tea were heavily taxed and expensive, the lady of the house enjoyed using her best porcelain and special silver cutlery in the service of delicate accompaniments such as preserved jam or confiture.

The quality and variety of tarts, biscuits and cakes were also a matter of pride and were offered generously with tea and coffee. And to think that many cooks did not even have an oven! Pots and pans with tight-fitting lids were used and coals were placed on top and underneath to provide the heat. Commercial raising agents and flavouring were also not available and lemon and naartjie peel, spices such as ginger, cloves, aniseed, allspice and cinnamon, as well as orange blossom- and rose-water were often used.

At La Motte, with its extensive wine tourism offering, hospitality is of the essence and although the estate’s wines are usually at the heart of all things celebratory, Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant’s Winelands Tea honours the important role of women in hospitality, ideal for Women’s Month celebrations.


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