Sipping tea can provide us with comfort in an uncertain world and the ritual of brewing and enjoying a cup is a time-honoured tradition across many cultures. A well-crafted tea is not only delicious and nourishing but also provide us with a sense of balance, control and belonging – something we all seem to be seeking at the moment. Tea rituals invite us to slow down and creates a space for us to relax, reflect and restore. 

Recently Melbourne Food Hub had the pleasure of chatting with Rasha Tayeh, the curator of Beit e’Shai small-batch organic teas. Inspired by traditional teahouses and apothecaries from the SWANA region (South-West Asia and North Africa), Beit e’Shai offers delightful blends that have been designed with a health focus in mind, drawing on traditional Arabic medicine and Palestinian herbalism. 

Rasha’s teas are the latest addition to our Grow Source Eat online store and can be added to your weekly fruit and veg parcel. As Victoria comes to grips with an extended lockdown and a long slow path to recovery, what better than a daily cup of quaran-tea to help us get through?

INTRODUCING RASHA

In December 2017, Rasha launched Beit e’Shai, an online apothecary and teahouse. Pronounced ‘bayt-eh-shy’, the term translates to ‘House of Tea’ in Arabic. The word ‘house’ or ‘home’ is very important to her as it represents the parallel life that she lives between two different geographies and the constant meditation she has around what ‘home’ really means.  Rasha was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, then later moved to Jordan where she spent most of her childhood. Her family eventually relocated to Melbourne when she was in late high school but often travelled back and forth between the different continents. Despite an abstract upbringing across multiple landscapes and cultures, Rasha explains that like many displaced Palestinians, no matter where she was, she always carried with her the smells, tastes and memories of Palestine. 

From a very young age, Rasha found herself incredibly fascinated by the medicinal nature of plants and herbs as well as how we produce, prepare and share food with others. This curiosity later informed her studies in nutrition, public health, herbalism, visual arts, photography and Reiki. She very much enjoys being a polymath and today finds herself mainly practicing as a nutritionist, herbalist, artist and Reiki practitioner. She is drawn to the space where art and health intersect, and her plethora of interests provides her with a holistic approach to all of these practices. 

It definitely keeps my life full of variety, just how I like it. In my case, having grown up in so many places, it feels quite natural to be interested in lots of different things.” 

While her blends are grounded in Arabic Medicine and Palestinian herbalism of the SWANA region, Rasha explains that there are still cross-overs with Western herbs, particularly due to ancient trade routes such as the Silk Road, the Way of the Sea, and the Ridge Route which allowed for a huge dispersion of flavours and cultures across Asia, Europe and Africa. Her tea library includes herbs and spices sourced from organic farms predominantly in Victoria and New South Wales. Some herbs that are harder to find are also imported from trusted organic producers in Egypt, Jordan and Sri Lanka. Rasha works only with growers and importers of the highest integrity. 

“I am a big believer in supporting small farmers and localising the food system… While it has always been the plan, the challenges of Covid has encouraged me to reimagine a product line that is completely local and how it would function… The big dream would be to one day grow as much as I can myself.”

Despite operating within the large industry of tea, Rasha’s down to earth attitude goes against narratives of competitiveness and instead she is passionate about creating a high-quality product that is hand-made, health-conscious, and sustainable. 

“I don’t need to make tea that I’m selling all over the world. I’m happy to make tea and sell to my little community and sustain myself…. If these ethics speak to someone then they will purchase it and for me that’s worth it.”

With this year exposing so many fragilities in our food system, Rasha believes it is more important than ever for small producers and businesses to band together to strengthen local food economies, community food projects and sustainability initiatives. MFH is thrilled to collaborate with Beit e’Shai and share this sense of solidarity.

If you would like to enjoy the tastes of Rasha’s inspired concoctions, MFH now stock three of her blends in multiple sizes: 

  • Digestion Tea – Liquorice Root, Peppermint, Fennel
    A perfect detoxifying tea that alleviates constipation and crampy stomachs with a minty sweet taste.
  • Moontime Tea – Sage, Cinnamon, Rosemary
    Designed for women’s health, the comforting cinnamon flavours mingle with sage and rosemary to assist with menstrual flow, period pain and blood circulation. 
  • Immunity tea. – Peppermint, Lemon Verbena, Thyme, Ginger, Turmeric
    A spicy and warming blend perfect for strengthening your immune system whether you are feeling run down or simply want to feel re-invigorated.

Words: Madeleine Repich

Photos: Phoebe Powell Photography