It was my friend Hanna Bornebusch of La Residencia, a Belmond Hotel, who turned me onto the olive leaf teas and powders made by Dos Alquemistas, Katja Woehr and Kate John.
Dos Alquemistas created Flor d’Oli for the much-loved Deià hotel, a signature infusion made using olive leaves from La Resi’s own trees blended with roses from its garden and hints of chamomile and lavender. A week or so ago, an ebullient Katja told me the story of how Dos Alquemistas came to be.
I was impressed to discover that Katja is the original founder of the wonderful Flor de Sal d’es Trenc brand of infused salt from the mysterious salt marshes at Es Trenc, in the far south of Mallorca. After Camper shoes, Flor de Sal is the first Mallorca-based brand I can think of that was beautifully conceived and marketed to the wider world beyond the island and Spain.
Mallorca is a place that either embraces you or spits you out…You really have to vibrate with the island and resonate with its people.
‘Flor de Sal was the reason I came to Mallorca,’ Katja explained. ‘I was living in France and felt compelled to launch a range of infused salt. I love salt marshes and they draw me in emotionally. I came to the island with the idea, made a connection with the salt marshes at Las Salines d’es Trenc and launched Flor de Sal in 2002. I sold the brand in 2011, way too early, but so be it. Business is about learning from mistakes.’
Before arriving in Mallorca, Katja worked in the gastronomical industry for many years. She spent 14 of these travelling the world.
For Katja, ‘Mallorca was a rational choice because I came for the salt marshes. It took me a while to fall in love with the island. Mallorca is a place that either embraces you or spits you out. It has nothing to do with how much money you have. You need to come in wearing velvet shoes and speaking quietly. You really have to vibrate with the island and resonate with its people.’
Dos Alquemistas certainly demonstrates that Katja and her business partner Kate John resonate with our island.
Kate is an English healer. She and Katja met when Kate was her Airbnb guest in Genova, a surprisingly laidback village close to Palma, back in 2017. ‘We instantly became friends,’ Katja says. ‘Kate decided she wanted to live here and so we found a place she could call her home.’
The seed of the idea for Dos Alquemistas came from Kate. Before she became a healer, she suffered from chronic fatigue which she treated with olive extract. ‘One day, when she was hiking between Deià and Soller, Kate saw a farmer pruning the olive trees, Katja explains. ‘She called me up and asked me what happens to the leaves. I said nothing, they burn them. She said “No, no, we have to do something with the leaves”. That’s how it all came into fruition. Kate’s hike was the catalyst for the whole project. We began our research.’
Olive leaves and healing
Dos Alquemistas is not allowed to make claims about the health-related properties of its products, but my online research turned up plenty of opinion that they exist.
The use of olive leaves for medicinal purposes goes back centuries. According to the Bible, ‘The fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.’ The Egyptians used it in mummification. Moroccan folk medicine uses olive leaves to help control diabetes.
Traditionally, Mallorcans drank olive leaf tea to help regulate their blood pressure.
Olive leaves contain the phenol Oleuropein, a powerful antioxidant that helps to fight certain internal infections and burn fat more efficiently. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure.
Compounds apigenin and luteolin and the anti-material agent cinchonine are also present in the leaves, which leads some people to claim they can possibly protect against cancer.
Olive leaf extract is also good for people who do lots of sports as it’s highly anti-inflammatory. Katja told me that the pharmaceutical industry uses it in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Upcycling olive leaves into unique teas and powders
Once Katja and Kate had committed to making Dos Alquemistas a reality, the next step was to find a source of olive leaves. They made an arrangement with Son Moragues in Valldemossa to use its discarded pruned branches and began to experiment with recipes for teas and milling olive dust for supplements and their own Organic Olive Latte, described as ‘The Mediterranean answer to the Macha Latte.’
The Dos Alquemistas website also suggests adding a spoonful of olive leaf dust as superfood to smoothies or make culinary use of it by sprinkling it, for example, on mushroom toast.
I’m getting used to the taste of Dos Alquemistas infusions and olive leaf dust and agree with Hanna of La Resi who told me, ‘The infusions Katja and Kate created for us have a lovely taste. People expect something stronger, even bitter because of the high percentage of olive leaves but it’s pleasantly mild with a twist.’
Hanna invited Dos Alquemistas to create a signature infusion for the hotel after she was told about the brand by the CEO of the Mallorca Preservation Foundation. It’s made with leaves from the hotel’s own trees and roses from its garden.
It’s not just about the infusions and olive leaf dust mixes Dos Alquemistas creates. There’s also the charming notion that, as they put it, you’re drinking ‘Mallorca in your cup, one leaf at a time.’
As our conversation drew to a close, I asked Katja if she thought that Dos Alquemistas could help stimulate the declining olive industry on Mallorca. ‘It’s a beautiful thought that we could trigger something and help re-evaluate the way the olive tree is regarded,’ she said.
You can find Dos Alquemistas products at Mama Carmen in Palma, Botiga Son Moragues in Valldemosa and Re-Organic in Soller. La Residencia offers its private infusion in the hotel shop.