Since she was a baby, Kara Arissa Tan has been eating bird's nest, which she says helped relieve and eventually cured her asthma.
Now 27, Tan starts her day with bird’s nest – straight from the jar on most mornings and on others, mixed into a yoghurt smoothie or pomegranate juice. It helps that she owns Zhen (珍), a homegrown brand that specialises in ethically harvested bird’s nest.
Tan doesn’t just enjoy consuming bird’s nest. Her family is behind Masterdon, which owns 27 bird’s nest houses and has been an international bird’s nest supplier for more than 30 years. As a 12-year-old, she learnt to retrieve and handpick nests, and build birdhouses for the swiftlets.
Being an industry insider, ironically, led her to strike out on her own. Aware that consumers valued honesty, authenticity and transparency in the products they supported, Tan hopes to cut through the noise by inconsistent techniques and jargon surrounding bird’s nest with Zhen.
On the company’s website, therefore, customers are taken through the process – collecting, cleaning, drying, QC and packaging. Many would be pleased to know that Zhen’s bird nest is derived through sustainable methods from its own swiftlet farms in southern Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Zhen’s bird nest products are free of stabilisers and preservatives. They are also packed with floral botanicals primarily sourced from certified and eco-conscious Australian and New Zealand growers and suppliers.
Tan, who has a master’s degree in China & Globalisation from King’s College London, launched Zhen in January this year. There are eight variants – chamomile, chrysanthemum, osmanthus, ginseng, lemongrass, jasmine, lavender, and rock sugar (original) – and they can be purchased in boxes of two or seven here. A monthly subscription plan is also available. Visit here to buy.
She’s already working on new offerings – bird’s nest with rose, anyone? – and bird’s nest jelly strips for urban warriors on the go. Meanwhile, we got her to debunk three NOTs about bird’s nest.
1 You are NOT depriving swiftlets of their home.
Swiftlets make their nests with their own saliva to incubate their young; they are not meant for living in. So these nests are only built during mating season and never used repeatedly. Soon as baby swiftlets learn to fly and leave home, these abandoned nests are cultivated.
2 Blood bird’s nests do NOT contain blood.
People believed that the crimson hue was due to the blood in the saliva of exhausted swiftlets. The colour comes from the minerals that run through the cave walls to which the bird’s nests are attached.
3 Genuine bird’s nest is NOT pure white.
Genuine bird’s nest should be translucent. If it’s reflective or pure white, chances are that it contains chemicals, which helped to speed up cleaning and achieve a fuller appearance. These chemicals not only adversely affect quality but are also bad for health (eww).
By "A Magazine Singapore, Candice Chan"