Soulful Sips: Discovering Our New Honeybush Blend
When I started this blog, coming up to three years now, I wanted to to share this part of my journey of creating tea blends to give you all a peak into the evolution of the blend. A large part of the Muthaiga tea process is to enable you, the reader, to get a window into the soul of our brand and hopefully for you to appreciate the depth and complexity of not just the blending process, but the inspiration and curiosity that drives us to create fulfilling, comforting brews that are connected to people and their stories.
With this in mind, I wanted to focus on the star of our new blend, South African honeybush. Now, most of you probably know Rooibos tea, which actually isn’t technically a tea as it doesn’t come from the tea bush. Its what us tea nerds refer to as tisane—or a herbal infusion.
And for everyone who knows me, I’m always rooting for the underdog, which is why I chose Rooibos’s less famous sister, Honeybush, as the base of our first caffeine free tisane blend!
The sweeter, gentler sister to Rooibos, Honeybush has been used for centuries by the Khoi and San people of South Africa. Like so many herbal remedies, indigenous knowledge is having a resurgence, and honeybush is a landmark plant for ensuring that the original communities who have used this amazing plant are included in its development. In 2019, a historic agreement was reached with the Indigenous Peoples of South Africa and the tea industry, so the Khoi and San people will benefit from both the rooibos and honeybush industries.
The inclusion of indigenous people in the profits made from honeybush is a huge step forward in the tea industry here in Africa as tea farming communities have not always been fairly compensated. That’s why I chose to work with a tea farm on the Southern Cape. Not only do they have a tremendous knowledge of the picking and processing of honeybush, but they are also focused on supporting the Khoi and San people by fostering safe and equitable working environments for increasingly vulnerable communities.
The Journey of Maisha Tonic
Once we knew we had honeybush, we delved into the tasting lab to embrace the Alchemist in us and unveil Maisha Tonic.
Maisha in Kiswahili means Life, so I wanted to create a fun herbal blend packed full of all the ingredients that our grannies and mums used to force feed us when we were not feeling 100%. No easy task as I remember my granny having over 105 herbal concoctions for anything and everything. She’d dig into mysterious cupboards filled with powders and spices (unlabeled of course) and emerge with the perfect thing to make you feel better.
The Tonic in Maisha Tonic came about because I wanted to create something that was simple yet fundamental, like my granny’s recipes. We’re so used to tonics being full of sugar and paired with gins, but a tonic back in the day always meant something medicinal and packed with benefits. With this, the budding idea for a life tonic took shape in our little tea blending corner in Nairobi.
The base of honeybush gives a caramel sweetness and depth, with a smooth, warming, silky finish. To that I added mesquite flower, which adds the most delightful woody tone to the tea. Mesquite was another serendipitous find that I discovered when a fellow tea lover reached out, asking if she could send a sample from Baringo County.
I’m constantly on the hunt for interesting new ingredients, and when I opened the bag and the scent of mesquite wafted out into our tea lab, I knew this had to be a part of what would eventually become Maisha Tonic.
You wouldn’t think that such a delicate bloom could have so much to it, but this little flower is surprisingly protein dense, it’s also rich in iron, calcium, potassium, and zinc. It adds a creaminess to the blend, only enhancing the inherently soothing background of honeybush, topping off the blend with a sweet floral finish.
The next layer on our herbal journey are guava leaves and kalonji seeds which lend a warm, toasted flavour to the blend, complimenting the sweet woodiness from honeybush and mesquite. Like all of the herbal additions to our tonic, each ingredient is chosen for both taste and the health benefits it delivers.
Guava leaves have a long history of helping regulate everything from blood pressure to improving eyesight, and kalonji seeds are an incredible superfood that were actually used in early testing trials for the COVID vaccine.
Cultivating Tea Connections…
We live and breathe tea here at MTC, and tea isn't just about the blends we create, it's about the connections we make and the stories we share along the way.
Let’s take mesquite for example, when we were layering flavour profiles for our blend, we discovered that Mesquite isn’t actually native to Africa, but was introduced by the British and has since evolved into an invasive species that has spread voraciously. However, like so many aspects of our history in Africa, we take something negative and find creative ways to overcome and even thrive and we found even more uses for this fascinating plant outside of tea.
After working with our source in Baringo, we discovered that mesquite wood has this gorgeous, ash brown hue and we collaborated with Nancy at Provisions Kenya (@provisionskenya) in Nairobi to make bookmarks inscribed with some of our favourite tea quotes. For anyone who knows me, I devour books. I’m always on the hunt for new authors, new stories, and sitting down with a book and my favourite blend is one of my favourite ways to relax and feed my soul.
As a company whose priority it is to highlight African stories, the power of being able to tell your own stories and frame your own narrative isn’t always something that has been afforded to us. Fostering reading, creativity, and thoughtful exploration of the myriad of stories that make up the rich tapestry of so many cultures on this continent forms the base of MTC and why we started our tea journey. The proceeds from our mesquite bookmarks will go towards stocking the libraries at the smallholder farms we source from, to ignite the minds of future generations so they can also explore Africa through storytelling and be inspired the same way each one of us at MTC has been inspired.
In the spirit of embracing meditative moments, health, and thoughtful exploration, we also collaborated with Dr. Alia (@silvermoonmystic) to come up with a Maisha Tonic infused candle that perfectly captures the deep, toasted honey notes of our tea blend.
Everyone at MTC took turns sniffing all the samples, running outside to clear our noses, and coming back in until we got the perfect balance of scents, warm and comforting just like our soothing bedtime tonic. It was a true team effort.
So, there you have it! A carefully curated and thoughtful collaboration of passionate women coming together to merge our worlds and create a mesquite bookmark with a hand engraved quote, a comforting caffeine-free tea blend, and a soothing tea infused candle made from our recycled tea caddies.
Our Parting words of Tea Wisdom
Maisha Tonic was born out of all the little remedies passed down throughout generations, often by women in the family. With this blend we’re looking to pay homage to indigenous communities and also the mothers, aunts and grannies who made sure not to let this precious knowledge die out.
Just like my granny, we all have someone in our family who’s always looking out for everyone else. They have all the solutions, all the secret cures in a mysterious cupboard guided by a system that makes sense to no one but them. Cherish them, because it’s through their selfless dedication to family and community that our future generations of women will be molded into strong, fiercely independent women armed with knowledge and education to make a mark on our ever changing world.
We would love to hear what you think of our Maisha Tonic! Please feel free to try it and post a review here: https://muthaigatea.com/collections/pyramid-bag-tea/products/maisha-tonic
- The Tea Alchemist