swaady martin
The atelier where the teas are blended

Swaady Martin the entrepreneur, writer and founder of Yswara’s tearoom in Johannesburg has created an environment that resonates with her truest self

Over the past five years Yswara, purveyor of bespoke teas, has built quite a following of traditional African tea-making methods that are both meditative and soulful. ‘Tea is about that meeting [one has with] time. It’s a communion with nature, the earth, the farmers and with the tea-blenders,’ says Martin.

swaady martin
A serene corner of the tearoom. The couch is from Studio 19; Rose-gold furnishings complement the pale-pink interiors

She describes herself as someone who loves simple and soothing spaces, and the tearoom’s enveloped in hues of pink, her favourite colour. The shade of it on the packaging of the main Yswara tea range is one she spent time creating herself at the printer and it’s reminiscent of an African desert before sunset. ‘I love silence. For me, that pink is my way of being in that silent desert,’ she says.

swaady martin
Blue cornflowers used in the Makeda of Sheba Rooibos tisane

In designing the space, Martin worked closely with Mia Widlake from Studio 19. The wooden floors are part of the aesthetic of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in which the tearoom’s housed. Up until the end of last year the tearoom was in the hotel’s courtyard, before moving upstairs to a bigger space, where Martin and her team produce the tea, dream up new flavours and allow the public to walk in for a cup of their preferred blend.

swaady martin
The Ty Wara – the inspiration behind the brand’s name; Copper basin and tap by Studio 19

Copper accents can also be seen throughout the space and are just one of the expressions of Martin’s love for natural materials, as well as a homage to one of the oldest metals found on the continent. ‘We’re contemporary in our aesthetics and the materials are old. Everything we have is rooted in Africa and has a deep meaning,’ she says. In this space you’ll also find the Ty Wara, a totem from Mali from which the brand derives its name.

Tell us about the tea-making process.

It starts with wandering deep into these immense, beautiful tea farms in countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi and locally, meeting the farmers and testing leaves and other ingredients like spices. From there, I select samples of the different flavours and come back to experiment. Once I’ve created something I like that looks, feels and tastes good, the recipe is created.

swaady martin
Pink cornflowers grown on a South African flower farm; the Ty Wara – the inspiration behind the brand’s name

Tell us about your team.

Yswara is run by Charlene Jordaan, who’s been with us for two years, though it feels like forever. She’s in charge of everything operational. We also have a salesperson and a production team on site. It’s a collaborative effort.

What was the first tea you ever created?

I’ll never forget it because all my love and imagination went into it. I’m more of a herbal tea-drinker, so it was a rooibos. I love roses, so it had a lot of rose petals, cornflowers and vanilla. It was a vanilla sparkling wine Champagne blend.

What are your favourite teas for special occasions?

Askia of Songhai, Omoluabi and Nandi of Zululand, all available at Yswara.

Who would you love to share a cup of tea with?

My higher self.

What’s your colour of the moment?

Pink, always.

swaady martin
The copper-and-wood shelves are by Studio 19

What book are you currently reading?

Choosing to Love the World: On Contemplation by Thomas Merton (Sounds True Publishers).

what’s the one place to which you always return?

Six-fours-les-plages, my maternal hometown in the South of France, where my family still returns every summer.

What’s your favourite guesthouse?

l love Satyagraha House in Orchards, Johannesburg, where Ghandi developed his soul-force movement and where I run workshops for my new company SHIFT WITHIN.

How do you centre yourself?

I see life as a constant prayer and try to stay awake to the magic around me.

Photography: Graeme Wyllie

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