Sarah Ben Romdane reconnected with the place she calls home in the summer of 2020 after months of lockdown alone in her Parisian flat. Her family’s fifth-generation olive tree estate in Tunisia was the starting point of KAÏA, her direct-trade olive oil. KAÏA is about reclaiming the legacy of Sarah and her family, and honours a terroir unjustly dismissed until now.
We got in touch with Sarah to talk about herself, food, and of course, her direct trade olive oil brand, KAÏA.
My name is Sarah Ben Romdane and I am the founder behind KAÏA, an olive oil brand I launched in the Spring of 2021.
KAÏA is is a female-founded, family-owned, direct trade brand selling a single-origin olive oil that I proudly and consciously produce in Tunisia, on our 5th generation family estate. Our mission is to build a fairer, more joyful and more delicious world. A world where our stories too can live on.
KAÏA truly believes in honouring the power of the Mediterranean land upon which our histories and identities have been built. KAÏA highlights an unjustly dismissed terroir and tells a story about the community that sustain it. This story is proud and sincere and seeks to challenge the stereotypes in which Tunisia has been stuck in.
At KAÏA, we’re all about pleasure, equity and community.
My identity is the backbone of KAÏA. I produce KAÏA from heirloom olives handpicked on centennial olives trees that my family has been growing for five generations.
The idea behind KAÏA was born during summer 2020 in Tunisia, after having spent months of lockdown alone in Paris. I was able to reground myself and reconnect with the place I call home in a super thoughtful way.
I realised that there was something missing in me when I was not in Tunisia and that I needed to do something about it. And so I decided to launch KAÏA to remind myself of the things that I cherish the most: my memories of summer in Tunisia, the legacy I inherit from my family and the Mediterranean.
My third great grandfather was a successful olive oil producer; as early as in the 19th century he was the first Tunisian to ever export olive oil from our town of origin to the USA, where he won prizes. KAÏA is about reclaiming and preserving that legacy.
To enjoy the space and narrative that is mine, instead of always looking to the outside 🙂
I used to dream of changing the world by working on a macro level. I still want to change the world, but now I focus on my local, small-scale project and hope to build bigger things from there.
Beautiful but hard!!!! It has allowed me to live my life in the most authentic way.
Launching a cross national, food business during a pandemic as a solo founder and first time business owner was challenging! Dealing with administration in Tunisia can be a nightmare, and the whole process felt like a roller coaster.
My life has turned into a giant spreadsheet, literally doing everything on every part of KAÏA from managing the harvest and making sure we produced the freshest olive oil possible, dealing with all kinds of operations, registering the company, figuring out logistics to building the creative vision behind KAÏA. There were a lot of smiles but also tears in the process!
KAÏA really is a go-with-anything kind of olive oil, it’s delicate but still has its personality. And this makes it very versatile. So it’s almost impossible to choose only one dish, but if I really have to, I would say Shakshuka doused in olive oil.
Probably the food my mom cooked? My mom is Syrian and cooked hearty stews with rice daily.
To be honest, I don’t know! But probably one of my mother’s recipes! Something like Bazella, which is a Levantine pea stew.
I didn’t start cooking regularly and intentionally until fairly recently to be honest. When I was a student, I was obsessed with burgers and often brought friends over for burgers lol.
Ugh, they are so many of them! What I like to eat the most is humble, hearty, unpretentious food:
Tunisian plate at Lotfi El Khal, Tunis
Fried eggs at Souassi, Beirut
Everything at Foul & Hommous, Dubai
Fish pasta at Spigola, Tunis
Sandwiches at Mokoloco and Urfa Durum, Paris
I love my roots, flavour and ease.
In Paris, I live alone, so I can’t really be bothered to cook elaborate and ambitious meals just for myself. I’ll have a salad but with a tahini and pomegranate molasses dressing, I’ll cook eggs with olive oil, chickpeas and cumin, or prepare toasts with tuna and harissa.
Simple food but with a focus on products that remind me of home.
Anybody – Burna Boy
La Sauce – Hamza
Wallah – Hamid Al Shaeri
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