Shams El-Mutwalli Dubai
Food writer, recipe developer and founder of Instagram blog Pass Me the Dimsum, Haiya Tarik, recently launched her own artisanal tea brand called HAIYATEA as a testament to her admiration of Japanese culture and cuisine.
HAIYATEA offers a range of teas including matcha, sencha, gyukoro, hojicha and genmaicha sourced from Japan. The online store offers merchandise like the Komorebi tea leaf strainer, and candles placed inside traditional Japanese teacups that are stocked in limited quantities.
“It’s available online for now but will eventually branch into boutique retail. The words HAIYATEA sound like ‘Hayati’ which in Arabic means ‘my life’, so it was really a very meant to be kind of thing,” the founder told Arab News Japan.
The launch of the brand is rooted in Tarik’s fascination with tea which motivated her to become a certified tea sommelier.
Tarik’s involvement in an advanced level Japanese tea course augmented to her understanding of teas and tea-making. Her sommelier certification was acquired from International Tea Masters Association, and Tarik was taught by a Japanese tea connoisseur who studied tea for 30 years.
The founder’s experience drinking matcha began several years ago, but she asserts how her “love for Japanese tea has only grown over time” and took off following her trip to Japan in 2018.
Trips to Tencha farms in Kyoto fortified Tarik’s passion for tea and the unique processing methods used in Japan.
“what amazes me about it, is that the time the Japanese tea farmers save through semi-mechanical harvesting and the CTC method of processing” they spend time “perfecting the cultivars and natural flavors of the teas. What makes matcha and gyukoro so special, for example, is that it is shaded for 3 weeks prior to harvest. The lack of sunlight makes the leaves work harder, makes the roots starchier and therefore concentrates the amino acids, making for a sweeter tea that’s richer in L-theanine. It’s a very involved and mindful process, producing superior and unparalleled quality teas,” Tarik told Arab News Japan.
Tarik is from Pakistan, was brought up in Saudi Arabia and moved to Dubai eight years ago. She admits how her upbringing did not expose her to Japanese culture but upon learning more about it she resonates with many of its elements.
“I just resonate so much with how committed the Japanese are towards achieving perfection,” and relates with the depth of the language also present in Arabic.
Her appreciation for Japanese culture extends beyond this as Tarik frequently shares posts about traditional Japanese dishes made at home including chawanmushi, okonomiyaki, katsu curry, onigiri, soba, and gyozas.
Tarik also stressed how she “couldn’t get over how seamlessly Japan marries the past, present and future, all at once, in it’s architecture, cuisine and lifestyle.”
Tarik’s content has also given her the opportunity to work with Japanese organizations like JETRO and brands like specialty market 1004 Gourmet.