Three years ago, the concept of juicing was entirely foreign to the Middle East.
But in Lebanon, where there’s a big emphasis on health and easy access to organic produce, Hana Alireza saw an opportunity to change that.
After a few experiences with cold-pressed organic juice in the U.S., she was convinced this would be a business worth starting in Lebanon and soon launched Qi Juices (pronounced ‘Kee’) with co-founder Leila Fakih Nashabe.
“The first time my husband gave me a green juice to drink in New York over ten years ago, I was a little suspicious. But after trying a juice cleanse a few years later in California, I loved it so much that I had to bring the experience back home,” Hana Alireza explained.
Though the traditional Lebanese diet is quite balanced and healthy to begin with, this fellow Brown University alum admits that the shift from eating vegetables to drinking vegetables wasn’t an easy one for consumers. Previously, juicing in Lebanon largely consisted of twists on the “cocktail shikaf”, or “fruit chunks cocktail”, which is garnished with ashta cream, nuts and honey.
At first, the response was slow-going and understandably so, given that this was such a novel concept in Lebanon. Yet, just as it has everywhere else around the world, the cold-pressed craze caught on and business really started to take off. Qi Juices remains the only certified organic raw juice company in Lebanon.
According to Hana Alireza, Qi’s most popular item so far is an almond milk called Lowz Love (lowz means almond in Arabic), which they tweaked for the Lebanese palate by using familiar local flavors like carob molasses and cinnamon. The Green Limonada with kale, pear, mint and lemon is also a big hit, maybe because it is a recipe so new to the country.
“The popularity of Green Limonada is interesting because before we brought the seeds to plant kale a few years ago, this green vegetable didn’t exist in Lebanon!”Alireza joked.
With the inspiring success of Qi Juices and the willingness of people like Hana Alireza and Leila Fakih Nashabe to educate consumers on the benefits of juicing, it shouldn’t be long before pressed juice takes hold in other parts of the Middle East.