Author’s note: TGIF! Soooo happy to finally share this with you! It’s the first in a series of interview features on Sour Skittles called Dweet Yute where young Jamaicans/Caribbean people are highlighted for doing great, innovative, interesting things. We’re sort of on the tail end of the Emancipendence holidays (and the highest point of our summer party season) in Jamaica at the moment, so I thought… what better time than now to big up Iyashi Herbs? After all, drinking a nice strong cup of tea works wonders for a hangover (I can attest). I’m a real tea head so I was excited to hear of Nadya Dee’s venture and ran into her a few times at local events, but the teas were always done, so I figured they must be awesome. After finally trying her Soul’s Journey blend —cinnamon (leaf x bark), fennel seed & kola nut sweetened with ginger infused honey (absolute deliciousness & so rejuvenating)— I was hooked and asked her to chat with me immediately. Here’s what she told me… Spoiler alert: There’s a giveaway waiting for you at the end!
SS: Tell us about yourself and your company. ND: I am Nadya Dee, a writer born and raised in the city of Kingston, Jamaica. After studying both Japanese and English in University, my wanderlust manifested with the opportunity to travel to Southern Japan in 2007 where I spent four years teaching English and exploring life on the other side of the earth. While living there I unearthed my passion for teas, herbs and healing and in July 2011, I was attuned to Level one of Reiki — a Japanese form of hands-on healing where the practitioner is a channel for Ki or life force energy. I’ve since dedicated my life to providing healing through words, herbs and energy.
I truly believe it is my duty to assist my community and by extension my nation in their own healing, and eventually in our collective healing of Mother Earth. I endeavour to do so by facilitating practices that cleanse, support and balance the body, mind and soul with the use of herbal teas, infusions, bath salts, aromatherapy and other herbal remedies. Throughout my experiences and spiritual evolution I have become confident that herbs are an essential part of both inner and outer healing and am committed to spreading this healing energy in any way I can.
SS: What’s the meaning of Iyashi and why did you choose this name for your venture? ND: Iyashi 癒し (noun) or iyasu 癒す (verb) is a Japanese word that means to heal, treat, remove pain, or quench one’s thirst. It is suggestive of a place of warm solace and restoration, where one comes to find peace, balance and harmony. The character 癒 differs from the conventional definitions of the verb “to heal,” in that it also means “to alleviate”, “to quench” and “to satisfy”. The word also has a connotation of “comfort,” “soothing,” and “solace,” implying that healing occurs beyond just the physical realm – but in the mental and spiritual realms as well. So the word iyashi means receiving healing or becoming healed in the connection between Mind-Body-Spirit, while being in an environment of soothing comfort. Why Iyashi? This word/ character has literally been hanging in my room for over 5 years on a cloth banner I had sent to my mother while I was still living in Japan. Then one day as I lay in bed it suddenly came to me, the perfect description of how I envisioned using teas and herbs for healing in Jamaica: Iyashi + Herbs.
SS: Are you one of those tea fanatics who is always either drinking or making tea? ND: Yup! That’s me in a nutshell… always experimenting with new herbs and herbal tea blends. In September 2011 when I returned to Jamaica, I decided to make a concerted effort to only drink my own loose leaf tea blends and I’ve been sticking to that (somewhat) ever since. Previously, I would consume copious amounts of Yogi and Traditional Medicinal bagged teas, but since I started drinking my own teas I haven’t been able to go back to tea bags. I also have a portable loose leaf tea mug and steeper so I am always able to drink my own tea, whether at home or on the go.
SS: How long have you been doing this and how did you get started? ND: I officially launched Iyashi Herbs on TVJ Smile Jamaica with Yendi and Neville (the link may not work on the first try, just click it again) on February 19, 2014, but the idea had been percolating (see what she did there?) in my mind for a while. Since returning home I knew my purpose was to find a way to introduce certain aspects of Japanese culture that resonated with me to my country. The Japanese tea culture was something that stood out, especially the tea ceremonies as well as their use of onsens (hot springs) as a form of relaxation. For the Japanese, one of the concepts of good health is to seek iyashi. One of the ways in which they do this is by sipping a relaxing cup of green tea in a beautiful garden or calming space as a way of replenishing one’s soul and mind with serenity, clarity and joy. With herbs as my focus, I decided to recreate the concept of iyashi here in Jamaica through teas, herb-infused water and bath salts initially. Since my debut on TVJ, I spent the majority of 2014 getting the word out about the brand and the healing properties of teas and herbs. I’m now more focused on perfecting my packaging and presentation to make it as convenient and eco-friendly as possible.
SS: Walk us through the process of creating a new tea flavour. ND: For myself: It all depends on which chakra (s) need work at that moment as each tea blend I create is intended to heal and balance the body’s energy centres. Over the course of about a week I focus on all the herbs which resonate on the same frequency as that particular chakra and then I’ll experiment with different combinations each day. By the end of the week I would have eliminated the herbs that clash and identified which blend is the closest to perfection based on how it tastes and how it makes me feel. For clients: I have a conversation first and try to ascertain their needs before preparing any blend. This lets me know which chakras they feel need to be targeted or if they have a specific ailment which requires healing. I also check if they are on any medications or have any allergies, then my task is to carefully select the herbs that would best combine to suit their needs. Of course I do a taste test (on myself) before selling any herb blends.
SS: Speaking of which, what’s your favourite tea blend? ND: I love them all but I swear by my specialty lunar cycle womb wellness blend which helped me to get rid of my pesky cramps. I drink it religiously every month during my cycle and aside from a little discomfort, there is no pain! Woohoo! Let the church say Amen!
SS: Can everyone ( including children) enjoy Iyashi Herbal Teas? ND: Well different herbs have different effects on people but there are some like chamomile, mint and lemongrass that are extremely soothing and can be consumed by practically anyone (children included). Additionally, at Iyashi Herbs we make custom-made tea blends so if any of our clients have any allergies or dislikes we create blends that specifically suit their needs and palates. Of course there are people on medications which might interact adversely with certain herbs, so it is always advised that they consult a health care professional first if they have any concerns.
SS: Why should people drink tea? ND: Historically, tea has been viewed as an important health beverage. In fact, recent studies suggest that tea, especially green tea, helps reduce some forms of cancer, helps bad breath, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduces blood pressure, helps with weight control, kills bacteria and virus, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and has neuro-protective power. Herbal teas provide all the health benefits of “true teas” plus much more.
SS: When is the best time to have tea? ND: Anytime! If the temperature is cold, a hot cup of tea will warm you right up and if it’s hot outside then a refreshing glass of iced tea is just what you need. I typically have my first cup of tea early in the morning. A cup of tea right before a meal is also great to aid with digestion and nothing beats a nice soothing cup of chamomile lavender-tea right before bed to ease you effortlessly into la-la land.
SS: What are the best ways to enjoy tea and what additives do you recommend? ND: Our custom-made teas are all you need for a fulfilling healing herbal tea experience, however, if for some reason someone wants to add something else to enhance their tea drinking experience, my only recommendation would be some Iyashi Herbs herbal honey for additional healing and sweetness.
SS: Tell us three little-known facts about Iyashi teas and/or drinking tea? ND: Well, firstly, at Iyashi we actually specialise in tisanes (herbal teas). A herbal tea, or tisane, is any beverage made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, or other plant material in hot water. These drinks are distinguished from “true teas” (black, green, white, yellow, oolong, etc.) which are prepared from the cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Tisanes can be made from all parts of the herb such as fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds or roots, generally by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. Seeds and roots can be boiled (also known as a decoction). Finally, most people probably don’t know this but tea (both true & herbal) is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water.
SS: What’s your vision for the brand in the coming years? ND: BIG THINGS!!! 😀 After the de-stigmatisation of herbs —specifically ganja— in Jamaica it is my hope that more people will open their minds and their hearts to the reality that herbs are a viable alternative for healing themselves and balancing their chakras. Ideally, I’d love for Iyashi Herbs to become the leading local source of herbal products in Jamaica. This includes seeing my teas being served alongside popular coffee beverages in cafes across the island.
SS: Where can we find your products and do you ship overseas? ND: Presently, Iyashi Herbs’ products are only available in Jamaica by ordering directly through our website or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Exchange and delivery are done in Kingston and St. Andrew for now but we’re hoping to expand to St. Catherine & Mandeville in the near future. No overseas shipping just yet.
Guess what? You can win an Iyashi Herbs product — your choice of tea blend, honey, steaming herbs or bath salts— to try out for yourself! Just click here and tell us in three lines what Iyashi (i.e. healing) means to you. Winner must be in Jamaica. Good luck!
Sour Skittles Congratulates Laura Jenoure, our winner of an Iyashi Herbs tea sampler!