DUBAI: UAE-based British expat Laura Manning comes from a big tea drinking family, who placed a lot of emphasis on premium quality teas. So, when Manning moved to Dubai in 2018, she found a gap in the loose-leaf tea market and saw an opportunity.
Speaking to Arab News Japan, the founder of online tea store BRW Society said she established her company in July 2019 after spending a year in Dubai.
“Cool tea was really hard to come by [in Dubai], there was really little choice in the premium high quality category area,” Manning said. “Loose leaf tea wasn’t easily found in the supermarkets.”
She explained how surprised she was, considering she had come from the UK, where tea was a big part of the culture. Manning said she had her mother in the UK send her monthly packages with all her favorite teas and her friends would come around to enjoy them with her.
She then said she had a “light bulb moment,” when she realized she could fill the tea gap in the UAE market.
“I brought this high-quality tea and wanted to make people more aware of what is out there and really bring a cool perspective on tea,” Manning said. “And that’s what we tried to do, we tried to show people that tea can be cool.”
BRW Society’s owner said they started out bringing in 50 different blends from countries like Japan, China, Germany and Croatia.
“We started quite small, and since I preferred loose leaf tea that’s what we started with,” Manning told Arab News Japan. “My passion was to educate people here and show them how easy it was to consume loose leaf and to show that it was much better than tea bags for you.”
She explained that when they first launched, they started doing tea tastings with various hotels in the UAE to “really show customers how to really liven up a tea menu.”
During these tastings, Manning said Japanese teas were always featured in order to show people the differences in tastes along with other teas.
“Customers would try it and see the difference. With your Japanese teas they were fresher with clearer character,” she explained.
Tea was not the only thing that came from Japan for BRW Society. With sustainability on Manning’s mind, she said she wanted to ensure that they were not doing “worse to the planet” with the packaging.
According to Manning, BRW Society’s tea packaging is almost 100% plant-based, thanks to a material called Soilon, which is developed in Japan.
“Our tea bags are made from corn starch. We really didn’t want to use any synthetic plastic or bleached paper, because that takes away from the purity of tea and the whole cleanness of it,” she added.
Soilon is completely biodegradable and can be broken down in the garbage soil or compost. “It’s a green product and doesn’t put any chemicals into your body,” Manning said.
The online tea store also ensures that cardboard used was made of 100% recycled paper. The box also uses vegetable-based ink.
The clear pouches that store the tea bags are also made of a product made from wood pulp, nature flex. It resembles plastic but is actually not. “It just means that product can be completely put in the compost and can be broken down in the ground,” Manning said.
Speaking of her inspiration from Japan, she said she considered Japanese tea consumers amongst “the healthiest and most health conscious in the world.”
Manning explained that she appreciated how Japan sees green tea as beneficial for their well-being. “I believe that too and I start every morning with a shot of matcha in my green smoothie.”
“I would love to introduce more and more Japanese blends and show customers the variations, because a green tea from Japan is completely different to a green tea from China,” Manning said. “Not only in the color, the taste, they are much grassier.”
Manning said she would BRW Society is slowly carving a place in the UAE and customers are trusting thr brand and trying new flavors.
“I would love to break into Saudi Arabia in the next few months,” Manning said. Expanding into Saudi Arabia would make sense for BRW Society since they have a huge e-market, she added.