Published: 03rd June 2021
Elizabeth Yambem quit a fancy financial job in London to craft some crazy awesome tea blends in Manipur. Have you tried her immunity brew?
Dweller has been in business for about five years now and even today, continues to experiment with their flavours. Like their Hog Plum with King Chilli tea that will have you reaching out for more
As a child, every time Elizabeth Yambem had the curious case of sniffles, all she had to do was to pluck a fistful of Nong-mang-kha leaves growing in abundance around her hometown Imphal and deliver them to her mother. Mum dearest would go on to boil the said leaves in water for some full-on steam inhalation therapy. Then there was the cryptically citrusy sumac berry, locally known as Hei-mang, a bunch of which would sit daintily in the palm of her hand before being soaked overnight to extract the flavour. Come morning, the infused water would turn into the perfect antidote for indigestion or even serve as a simple detox portion.
Even as a Financial Analyst in London these memories beckoned her home, night and day. In the year 2016, Eli, as she is fondly called, gave in to the call and came back home to begin the long process of establishing her own start-up — Dweller, which makes thoughtful tea blends with locally-sourced treasures.
Blend it like Liz
Several orders, three cafés and many beautiful blends later, Eli is at it again. Letting her flavourful childhood memories guide her towards the best tea combinations ever. Keeping in mind the need for building immunity, last month, the 31-year-old launched Turmeric Ginger Tea with Star Anise (that star-looking spice that usually features in biryani). India is no stranger to the benefits of this trifecta. Eli enumerates for us, "Both turmeric and ginger grow here in abundance. They are full of antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Since turmeric has a very sharp taste, we deviated from the usual way it is processed so that it gives a different vibe while retaining its aromatic, mildly spicy essence. It makes for a great early morning sip."
It's getting Chilly in here
Two of Dweller's limited edition teas are also back from last year — Hog Plum with King Chilli and Raw mango Mint. How exotic do these sound? If the names are so charming, imagine how delightful the blends themselves might actually be. Hog plum is slightly tangy, astringent even, but when combined with a dash of king chilli, the famous ghost pepper from Manipur, plus a hint of wild turmeric and you have a beverage that is hot yet heady. We also love the sound of raw mango mint tea. Looks like lockdown has been a time of iterations for Eli. "Indeed, we had a lot of time for R&D which is why last year, we launched the limited edition teas. This year, we are launching the same flavours but with improved taste," says the youngster who pursued her Bachelor's in Accounting and Finance from the University of Warwick, UK.
Harvesting local produce
That homey feeling
Intrinsically, and somewhat mysteriously, Eli has always known that she would come back home someday and use the strength of whatever is local to the Land of Jewels, as people call Manipur, and would establish a business of her own. "Being an ardent tea lover, I knew I couldn't do the same black or green tea. I had to do something hyper-local. The stories of using local herbs and indigenous fruits have always stayed with me and I started working to bring them out," says Eli.
Fruity Roselle Olive Tea
Eli stayed in Guwahati for over a year to savour and make sense of different teas. She worked hard with the food processing experts of Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology, carried out various experiments and only in June 2017 was Dweller launched. Refreshing Sumac Berry Tea and Fruity Roselle Olive Tea were some of the first unique teas she offered which required one to have an acquired taste, along with the more popular lemongrass and her own variety of green tea, called the Gentle Green Tea. "Usually, green tea is bitter and harsh and I wanted to understand why. I found out that tea that grows in the high ranges usually reaches maturity slowly and the flavours are much more delicate. I believe that green tea of really good quality is supposed to be gentle," she explains.
Working through the worst
Dweller employs 23 people in their manufacturing unit, which currently allows only five at a time due to COVID norms. Some of them have been with Eli since the beginning and are like her family. And with a growing customer base that serves as an extended family, it looks like they are all together relishing everything that comes out from Dwellers.
For more on them check out dwellerteas.com