Da.u.de Tea Corporation brings a greater awareness and more refined appreciation of tea to the Filipino market with its highly customized couture tea blends


If you think tea is boring, then wait until you cross paths with Couture Tea Blender Renee Sebastian. The country’s first Certified Tea Master, Sebastian will prove your perceptions wrong—she’s the person most qualified to tell you how to steep, store and serve tea, as well as determine what type of food best complements a certain blend.

Apparently, tea goes beyond steeping a bag of Chamomile in a cup of hot water. This, among other things, is what you’ll learn after a visit to the newly opened Da.u.de Tea Lounge in Fort Bonifacio. Pronounced “da you deh,” the tea lounge showcases the many things one can do with tea. Ordering their High Tea Set-up gives one a crash course on Tea Appreciation 101—everything, from the jams served with biscuits to the Crispy Pork Banh Mi Sisig Sandwich, and the Macaron Duo and Chocolate and Tea Pudding, is tea-infused.

“Our biggest challenge right now is the current perception of what a tea lounge is,” shares Sebastian. “They think automatically that we don’t have food; that we are just one among the many bubble tea establishments in the metro. So the challenge is for us to get them in first,” she says.

Once customers are in, it’s a very easy sell. Sebastian has meticulously crafted a menu of tea-infused food and drink items that are “very relatable and easy to understand,” she explains. “Everybody knows what chocolate pudding is, what a macaron is, what a pork banh mi is, and we infused tea in them. Even in our spiked teas,” she says of their alcoholic tea drinks, “we have beer infused with tea. We call it the Blackened Beer and the Beer Berry. We have the Manila Moji-tea. People drink it and they’re surprised. As you can see, I’ve really worked hard to use the language you already know, and then surprise you with that extra kick, which is the tea.”

A Wellness Company At Its Core

A proudly Filipino company, Da.u.de evolved from being a fashion business selling ethnic apparel and natural body products in New York City into the tea company it is today. “I know it sounds kind of extreme, from fashion to tea,” acknowledges Sebastian, “but the way I think of it is Da.u.de is total wellness. We cater to both internal and external wellness. Internally, we have tea; and for external care, we have natural body products.”

Da.u.de used to service spas in the Philippines, but Sebastian made the decision to make tea her business’ primary focus. “I officially named the company Da.u.de Tea Corporation, but we can always infuse tea into the natural body care line later on. A lot of what I do, really, is to showcase what you can do with tea,” she says.

Evidently, Sebastian’s passion for tea is undeniable. “It all started in Morocco,” she shares. “It is the number one tea drinking society in the world,” she says, “and when I went there, I started to see what they do with tea. The different blends they make. They were mixing things, and it got me interested because it felt like another form of art expression. I’m an artist by nature, and that’s what got me interested, so I started and made my first blend, shared it with friends, and they loved it. It was very rudimentary, not even at the professional level, but that awakened my thoughts about it.”

Since then, Sebastian went into the tea trade, linked up with a network of tea professionals, and further enhanced her knowledge of the craft by taking up further studies. “I studied under a Chinese tea master, a Japanese tea master, and in America, I studied under a World Tea Champion Blender. Very recently I came back from apprenticing under a Korean tea master as well,” she says.

With that much knowledge of tea under her belt, Da.u.de customers are assured that each of the 55 blends currently available at the lounge are unique, premium, and possess ingredients that Sebastian personally picks from her travels around the world. “Everything I make is unique, but I carry some complex flavors. I have something called Hexie, which is a mixture of goji berry, apples, dragonfruit, nettle leaves, etc., and people have been saying that it’s good but they can’t pinpoint what the exact flavor is, so it’s complex that way,” she shares.

Those looking for an alternative for coffee would do well to try Da.u.de’s Coffee Alternatives, wherein Sebastian “uses the language of coffee, but substitutes espresso with tea. We have affogato, cappuccino and machiatto that has no coffee in it. There are also teas with coffee beans in them, but we don’t grind the coffee. We just steep the tea and get the aroma of coffee,” she shares. Other blends include the Aphriki Masala, Cacao Cimmaron, Idulgashinna Green, Papaya Kamille, Pistacia and the Seffarine, among many others. The Mangga Fruit Tea, Sebastian says, is the crowd favorite so far. “I can’t stock up enough,” she says. “Filipinos like it, and also strangely enough, Korean and Japanese. Unanimous, hands down, they love it. They come back over and over again for it.”

A Rising Tea Culture

Different cultures appreciate and apply tea differently, says Sebastian. The bubble tea market, for instance, is a very Taiwanese Culture. “If you go to Morocco, it’s the mixing of anything with green tea alone. If you go to India, it’s all about the spicy teas,” she explains, adding that different countries have different tea ceremonies as well.

“The Japanese has a very intricate matcha green tea ceremony, while the Koreans have a very nice and meaningful tea ceremony. The Philippines, too, has a tea culture. We just don’t realize it, but our tea culture is embedded in herbal teas. We all have that lola or mom who says when we’re sick, to drink herbs like salabat, pito pito, tanglad and all those other leaves. We have it, we just don’t think of it like the British tea culture of tea time and afternoon tea. Every culture has their own take on tea, and that’s what makes it so complex and interesting,” she says.

With so many countries exhibiting a stronger tea culture, Sebastian still chose to expand her thriving business in New York to the Philippines. “I saw that the bubble tea culture is here, but it’s still not the complete thing. I respect that tea culture, I love it to some degree, but it’s a very small portion of what tea can offer. This is why I created my personal trademark as a couture tea blender, to blend tea in an artisan way. There is a great open market here right now, and there is an opportunity for me to create that market. The tea trend is rising and surging, and it’s nice to be at the front of the pack right now,” she says.

Da.u.de Tea Lounge is located at G/F Net Lima Bldg., 26th St. cor 4th Ave., Fort Bonifacio Global City.


Published August 13, 2012 in the Business Agenda section of Manila Bulletin