Yswara’s Regal Tea Blends Tell The Story of Africa Through Herbs
In the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa, Yswara is brewing change one cup of tea at a time. Located on a lonesome, grassy hill, the headquarters for the innovative tea company– where everything is designed and packaged– are simply built and inconspicuous from the outside. But inside, in keeping with the brand’s timeless elegance, Yswara has transformed the space into an enviably calm, composed style, thanks in no small part to Yswara’s visionary founder and CEO, Swaady Martin. The Pan-Afropolitan entrepreneur personally composes each of Yswara’s tea blends, drawing inspiration from nature, poems, and African history– and the company’s Jo’burg factory has a thoughtful aesthetic to match.
Each of Yswara’s blends evokes an important aspect of African heritage, and are part of larger, more curated collections; the current roster includes: the Seven Wonders of Africa, African Queens, Kingdoms of Africa, and African Values. Martin draws on folk interpretations of the medicinal properties of plants to capture the character of her inspirations in tea-form, including her selection of rooibos, chili pepper, and roses to complement the tale of Shaka Zulu, whose “forceful, powerful spirit forever embodies the burning flame of the Zulu people”. Each of Yswara’s teas bears a similarly-descriptive history on the box, paralleling the contents of the blend with the figure who influenced it.
The packaging, of course, is also beautiful. In this way, Yswara’s teas are about more than just the taste (though they are, of course, delicious). There is beauty and care at every step of production, which manifests in each freshly-brewed cup, itself a visual delight of flowers and herbs.
“The ‘how’ is as important as the ‘what,’” Swaady explains, invoking Yswara’s core philosophy– a twist on the traditional Ubuntu saying, “I am because we are”– that governs each handpicked, sun-dried leaf in Yswara’s tea.
Luxe Ubuntu, a phrase coined by Yswara to describe their unique approach to business, is meant to preserve the original spirit of the Ubuntu saying while applying it to the production of luxury goods. Rather than condensing wealth at the very top, Luxe Ubuntu distributes benefits across the chain of production. The abstract values of Luxe Ubuntu– like kinship, compassion, and harmony– find themselves tangibly realized through Yswara’s work: uplifting African farmers and artisans (particularly women) by expanding their production abilities and supporting their income, conserving and promoting African heritage, and exploring the balance between tradition and modernity in the African identity.
Each cup infuses identity, economic development, and healing into the delectable, nourishing flavors. A cup of tea, taken with food or enjoyed with a book, becomes something more– a feeling consummate of all the care and intention that has brought it to you. As Martin eloquently states in Yswara’s mission statement, the teas and their underlying philosophy ensure “you are not just drinking our tea, but also tasting a piece of our story.”
Tea, and the means of its production, have often been a source of conflict and tension throughout history, particularly in parts of the world where colonialism left its mark. But tea has also been a powerful symbol for meaningful disruption (the Boston Tea Party being the most obvious example). Yswara has not only created a delicious product, but it has taken a product with a fraught history and has transformed it into a positive, beneficial system, along the way brewing a consciousness for what has been, what is, and what the future of plant-based commerce still can (and should) be.