*Produced by SilverKris for Botana&Tea*
The recent Covid-19 pandemic, which has left virtually no country unspared, has further underscored the importance of taking care of one’s health. This is especially pertinent with circuit breaker measures easing up and people slowly returning to the workplace. With the added stress of trying to stay safe on top of the daily grind, it’s all too easy to burn out.
Nicole Yap, founder of Botana&Tea, is well acquainted with the impact of life in the corporate fast lane. She shares how her stressful lifestyle caused her to fall sick regularly and even suffer frequent asthma attacks. However, that changed when she was introduced to Greek products such as red saffron and mountain tea about 10 years ago by her sister who lives in Greece.
“Before I changed my lifestyle, my health and immunity were quite poor – at my worst period, I was falling sick at least twice a month and would get asthma attacks whenever I was under stress,” Nicole shares, describing how she cut down on processed foods and caffeine, and started taking Greek red saffron regularly as well as using herbs in her food preparation and drinking them as herbal tea.
“My health has greatly improved; I’ve not fallen sick even once this year,” Nicole continues. “Although I still experience high stress levels, I am better able to manage it through mindfulness and a balanced diet.”
In this interview, Nicole tells us more about the Mediterranean secret to longevity and good health… as well as the best places in Greece to visit.
Tell us a bit more about your background – how did you get started with Botana&Tea?
Having worked in the corporate world for many years, I’ve long wanted to start my own business but it was only in 2015 that I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and started a business venture with some friends. Although that initial business failed in 2018, it gave me the courage to try again, this time on my own. That was how Botana&Tea was launched in end-2018.
Botana means “herbs” in Greek. Herbs have always been a big part of the Greek diet – from food preparation to drinking them as herbal tea – and it helps boost overall wellbeing. When I first started the business, I was selling mostly organic Greek red saffron and saffron tea as these were the products I am the most familiar with. Having seen the difference it’s made to my personal wellbeing, I want to introduce the benefits of Greek wellness to people in Singapore and eventually, across Southeast Asia.
What are some of your bestselling products?
Greek red saffron, which is sourced from the town of Krokos in Kozani, northern Greece. Produced by the local co-operative Cooperative de Safran, the red saffron here undergoes very stringent checks and audit by the European Union to ensure its quality and authenticity. It is also a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which means the entire product is traditionally manufactured within a specific region and thus comprises certain unique properties. Greek red saffron is rich in antioxidants and is known to keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control while also helping with cell repair.
Other popular products include a range of Greek saffron herbal teas, which come in traditional herbal blends and fruit blends that are popular even among children. There is a demand for non-caffeinated products among consumers and it’s hard to find products infused with saffron on the market. That is why this range of saffron herbal teas is very popular among consumers who are health-conscious.
Why do you think your products are so popular with consumers?
Because of the recent Covid-19 pandemic, I think people are becoming more conscious about their wellbeing and are looking for ways to boost their immunity. I also noticed how some of my friends were being diagnosed with diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which is why I want to be an advocate for more healthy lifestyle habits. I have received feedback from customers on how their health has improved by making slight adjustments to their lifestyle and diet and by consuming these products on a regular basis.
What makes Mediterranean wellness so unique?
If you look at the people living in the Mediterranean, wellness is part of their lifestyle and their regular diet. The Mediterranean diet includes lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, yogurt, honey, extra virgin olive oil, olives as well as plenty of herbs and spices. They usually eat more fish and seafood, less red meat and consume moderate amounts of wine. The people in Greece also tend to take life more lightly – for example, mealtimes are usually a communal affair with friends and family, and enjoyed with a bit of wine. After all, wellness is not just physical but also mental. It’s important not to isolate yourself and surround yourself with people you love and who support you.
If I’m a first-time visitor to Greece, where would you recommend me to go?
Athens is definitely a must, as it has more than 3,000 years of history. Apart from the Acropolis and other archaeological sites, the museums are highly recommended as they offer many priceless artefacts from Mycenaean times (1600 to 1100 BC) to the Roman times and to the early Christian era. It’s not expensive to visit these museums and you can get up close with all these fascinating historical items. Meteora, located in central Greece, is another must-visit. This is a complex of six Eastern Orthodox monasteries built into natural rock pillars and rounded boulders. The entire area is jaw-droppingly beautiful and so rich in history.
For islands, Santorini and Mykonos are consistently popular with tourists but if you don’t have much time, Aegina is an island located just one hour from Athens. This idyllic island is very picturesque and is well-known for their pistachios, which are exceptionally fragrant and flavourful. I actually hope to import their pistachios to Singapore very soon!
What can customers look forward to in the next few months?
I will be introducing a range of personal care and skincare products, including sea sponges from the island of Kalymnos. These sea sponges have been use by the locals for personal hygiene and cleaning since the 8th century, and these sponges actually inspired the synthetic sponge. These sea sponges are all-natural and hypoallergenic and is safe even for use on babies.
Customers can also look forward to a new range of extra virgin olive oil from the new season, as well as a new range of Greek saffron teas, a new range of Greek herbs, essential oils, beeswax cream and many more. The e-store also currently carries a range of customised gift sets, which are available for individual and corporate gifting, so I am in the midst of putting together a new range of Christmas gift sets for the upcoming festive season.
Most excitingly, as part of my business plan to move towards a B2B consumer base, I recently signed a collaborating agreement with a company in Greece, Managi. They are an export and e-commerce company representing a wide range of small to mid-range organic and artisanal producers in Greece, and I’m working with them to export their products to Singapore. Consumers are increasingly more discerning, and are very concerned about where their food is sourced from, especially in light of Covid-19. As such, I look forward to sharing these artisanal products with local F&B owners and serve the larger business community so that even more people can appreciate Greek products.
For more information, head to Botana&Tea’s official website here.