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A Spot of Tea with Lady Bonin

Cape Town’s premier tea merchant, Jessica Bonin, talks about the rising popularity of tea.

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Lady Bonin | House and Leisure

While most people crave a cup of coffee in the morning, Jessica Bonin would rather have a cup of tea. Not that she doesn't like coffee, she says – she'll have a cup now and again – but as the owner of Lady Bonin's Tea she has unlocked the secrets of the ancient elixir that is tea. Bonin's brand is one of the most popular sources of artisanal teas in Cape Town, and its owner knows just how to use tea to help both body and soul. She's also more than happy to share that knowledge with her customers. ‘Tea has been popular for five thousand years – but it has seen many revivals. I have been in the business for eight years, but it is in the last three that I have seen the change where tea is becoming more popular in South Africa,’ says Bonin. 

Lady Bonin | House and Leisure
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At a time when mindful, conscious eating is gaining momentum, people are very concerned about what they put in their bodies and how it will affect them. ‘I think this growing popularity in tea is a reflection of modern life,' says Bonin. 'People are looking for things that support their lifestyle.’

Thus, when Bonin is scouring the globe for teas to bring to the country, or creating a special blend, she is hyper-aware that she has to create something that fulfils a purpose. ‘When I source tea, I have to be objective. I know what I like and what my personal journey is, but I have to see what appeals to people in general. At the core of it, tea is a feeling.' And it is a feeling that Bonin continuously falls in love with, she says, despite having already been on this journey for almost a decade. 

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‘The reason tea appeals to me is very multi-layered. Just when I think I know why I love tea, I learn something new that inspires me and changes my answer. But at the base of it all, tea is a platform of self discovery. It is more than a beverage: it evokes a sense of being.’ 

The remarkable properties that teas have is the reason Bonin believes more and more people are turning to tea. ‘I have noticed that when people start their tea journey, they start looking for a specific benefit. Perhaps it's stress, struggling to sleep or weight loss. Once they find what they need, they start exploring and going deeper. Often when people ask me which tea they should buy, I ask them, "What do you want to feel?"’

With the huge variety of teas out there, not to mention the methods and tools used to make them, the world of tea can seem overwhelming. But Bonin's secret for the perfect cup is a simple one. ‘I know it sounds like a cliché, but the perfect cup of tea is one made with love,' she says.

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In a series inspired by the inaugural FOOD XX Symposium and Awards, House and Leisure tells the stories of five remarkable women who are disrupting and improving the food industry.