Tea has helped heal nations thanks to women the world over.
One such woman is Swaady Martin. She reminds me of the Emperor Shen Nung.
Apparently this Chinese emperor discovered the wonders of tea after wild tree leaves blew into his cup of hot water. It's believed he experienced a warm feeling when he drank out of the cup. A symbol was created in his honour as tea was said to bring balance and harmony to the human race.
Like Shen Nung, Martin is a strong believer in the power of tea and is the queen of gourmet teas. She left the corporate world to open a tea shop, YSWARA in November 2012 in the heart of Maboneng Precinct. It's a Moroccan-inspired tearoom with Coptic crosses from Ethiopia, totem lamps inspired by West and Central Africa and every detail has meaning. Martin says more than just the love of tea, she wanted to make a change in the world. "The company was created as a way to contribute to the reversal of the African commodity trap. We unlock Africa's potential to produce beautiful, contemporary, ethically sourced superior quality products that appeal to a local and international market, while achieving societal impact and promoting African history, art and culture," she says. She has had a long endearing relationship with tea.
"From a young age, buying and drinking fine teas was part of our family treasured rituals. As with all relationships, they evolve as you get to know each other and embrace the other for all they are. In a chaotic world, where all is fast, noisy, busy, tea is my relaxation and meditation on-the-go, a piece of eternity for the few minutes that the water is boiling, the leaves are steeping and the first sip of this fragrant warm brew. That moment of the day where I have a date with time and with everything, sipping beautiful loving nature in a cup ... an ode to being present."
And she points out that the hot beverage cannot be rushed.
"There is no other option but to slow down, be careful so clumsy me doesn't spill the boiling liquid. There are no limits to how many times a day you can have a cuppa. In the process of each measured sip, one is transported to a space not far from this ethereal African experience, the timeless time, the eternal moment."
Martin says, for her, creating tea is like creating a painting of colours and tastes.
"I source teas directly from the tea plantations . this is in Rwanda, Malawi, South Africa, Burundi and Kenya . Selecting the best leaves and tasting the dried leaves for the final selection and brewing the blend to ensure the smell and taste are as pleasing as the visual appearance of the tea."
But just what are gourmet teas? Martin says they use camellia sinensis - a species of evergreen shrub whose leaves and leaf buds produce tea.
"We have been acclaimed by Michelin star chefs for our subtle and original mix of flavours. Our signature blends are exclusively created by me and include unique African ingredients such as rooibos, honeybush, buchu, kola nut, wild yam, penja pepper, etc. Our full leaf orthodox teas are carefully curated from Africa's best tea estates, and support traditional harvesting methods. Each leaf has been patiently handpicked, hand-rolled and sun-dried to ensure exceptional quality. Whole leaf tea absorbs water and expands as it infuses. It is the best way to extract flavours and aromas from the leaves."
She doesn't have a favourite though. "It's like asking me to choose one of my children. I like different teas for different moments of the day and times of the year."