By Sofía González
Infusion tea often remains as an amicable drink for a lovely, chilly afternoon or a subtly-flavored beverage if you’re not looking for something too strong. But the world of infusions is so diverse and so creative, it’s hard to believe all the flavors you can obtain in a single cup! Gabriela Nowalsky, the owner of Bibelot, knows this very well.
Her love for everything related to food made her look for ways to create infusions with the wide range of fruits and herbs Costa Rica offers. We sat down for a quick interview, where she explained how her business combines health, cuisine and sustainable development.
What’s the best way to start with Bibelot? The tea sampler.
How was Bibelot created?
The company was founded in 2017, after I returned to Costa Rica after completing my master’s degree. It was then that I decided that I wanted to start my own business. And I have always been very interested in the subject of cooking, which has nothing to do with what I studied, I am an economist - focused on sustainable development issues.
I’ve always liked cooking very much, and more than learning the techniques, I have always found it easy to combine flavors and create recipes. Besides that, I’ve always been interested in health-related topics. So I thought that I could join three important parts of my life: food, health and sustainable development. And that's how the idea of Bibelot came about.
I also lived in countries where a lot of tea is consumed. Infusions became part of my daily routine. That's why I came up with the idea of infusions, which combines the three topics I’ve just mentioned - health, cuisine and sustainable development. And the sustainable development part is incorporated by working solely with small producers.
How do you create a Bibelot infusion?
I could say that 99% of the products used in Bibelot are produced by Costa Rican producers. And to know where the ingredients come from is very important for me. When possible, we like to eliminate intermediaries and work directly with these producers. Through Bibelot’s operation we are generating direct and indirect employment and contributing to fair trade.
We buy the ingredients directly via a thorough selection and quality control process. Since we work with dehydrated fruits and herbs, some of these herbs we produce ourselves. For example, we grow the lemongrass used in our infusions. We are also producing herbal and medicinal infusions, which we grow and dehydrate. The final step is mixing the ingredients, packing them and delivering them to both customers and retailers.
Why is it so important to use only national products?
When I decided to make infusions, I decided to do it with domestic products... as much as possible. Because that is a very important point, I feel that Costa Rican cuisine and Costa Rican ingredients are not given enough importance. We have, specifically in terms of fruits, spectacular products that people outside the country are constantly looking for.
I spent a couple of months trying out different ingredients, until we found the flavors we were looking for, as well as the quantities. That's one of the things that differentiates Bibelot from other brands of tea: they are completely natural and don't have any kind of flavoring or additive. It's natural, it's the fruit and it's the herb. So we also spent quite a bit of time trying out flavors, amounts and so on.
Where did you start looking for ingredients?
We started going to the fair, that’s how we began. We went to the farmer's fair and saw all the fruit options available, and tasted different products from small producers. That was a big part of Bibelot’s beginnings, to get a taste of what the country produced and get inspired from what we saw.
Also, Costa Rican farmers fairs are very different from farmers markets in other parts of the world. There’s nothing like it. From our trips to these fairs, we learned what fruits were available, what was in season and what grew nationally. Learning all of this took months. From there, we began experimenting with different products and combinations. Once we found products we liked, we began contacting the producers.
What’s your favorite flavor for infusion tea?
Oh, that's tough! I'd have to say lemongrass. There's one that has pineapple, mango and lemon grass that's kind of... people are afraid to try it, I think. Mostly because of the lemon grass, because it’s a common flu remedy and people often associate it with being sick. But, the truth is that it has a spectacular flavor. It’s both tropical and comforting.
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