Tuak, a traditional rice wine from Sarawak, has come a long way from simply being a drink used in Dayak rituals and festivals, and as a welcome drink for longhouse guests.
For this family in Kuching, tuak has been part of their life for 130 years. Now the family is sharing their tuak creations with the rest of the world via an Instagram store.
“It wasn’t our family’s main source of income, let alone a small business at the start – just a recipe and daily preparation in the family that we all loved and passed on,” said Martiana of Tuak By The Rasa. Family (The Rasa). with Vulcan Post.
“Over the years, we have been fortunate to have repeat customers who have offered to pay us for our family’s signature drinks. With this, my parents saw an opportunity to sell more among their friends.
Let Gen Z speak
Although Martiana’s parents saw an opportunity to monetize their family recipe, they had always been content to sell by word of mouth or WhatsApp to neighbors, family members and friends. But as someone with experience in online business, Martiana convinced her family to take the next step.
While she takes care of order taking, marketing, design and packaging, her grandmother is in charge of the tuak production.
“My grandmother is quite a private and traditional person. Starting The Rasa online was quite scary for her as she did not trust the internet, nor did she have the idea of purposely buying new packaging for her products since she sold them with glass bottles. of empty wine / alcohol that she already had at home, ”Martiana shared.
But Grandma Rasa was never one to back down from a challenge. In her childhood, she was the oldest and the only sister who never had the privilege of going to school, and was the mother figure to her 6 siblings.
Later, she was a single mother of her 3 children after the death of her husband. At the time, she was a dental nurse in a public hospital which also sold tuak as a side activity, starting in your late twenties.
Since she was 75, she has over 40 years of manufacturing experience tuak the proven way. Until today, she still prefers to do everything by hand, abandoning the modern mixer and instead using her trusty pestle and mortar.
“She says electrical appliances don’t always work very well and being a strong woman in her Christian faith, she always says, ‘God gave you two hands, use them,’” explained Martiana.
Another tradition that Grandma Rasa takes to heart is never to open the lid of the bucket to check and taste the tuak to see if it’s fermented well or not. It was a challenge for Martiana who prefers to take control of her profession. In addition, tripping or swearing around the tuak is therefore strictly prohibited in their family.
Due to her traditional ways, Grandma Rasa also doesn’t believe in using heaters or coolers in the process. And because humidity is something they don’t really have control over, it can lead to lots of tuak.
Nothing that seems to bother Grandma Rasa too much, it seems. “If we’re lucky we’re lucky,” echoed Martiana, what her superstitious grandmother usually said.
Use hyperlocal ingredients
From family observation to modern times tuak can come in many fruity flavors such as pineapple, grape, and rosella, but they continue to do so in the traditional Bidayuh way.
The Rasa tuak is made in sets of 2 large buckets. These fill about 30-35 large bottles, and each batch of tuak takes about 4 weeks to produce. As much as possible, they source the ingredients hyper-locally.
They use homemade yeast from their step-aunt in Bintulu who will ship it, while the ginger and pandan leaves are harvested from Grandma Rasa’s own garden.
If you are someone who loves your sweet alcohol, tuak maybe something you would like. Grandmother Rasa tuak is not made to get drunk; it is believed to give the body a pleasant feeling of warmth, so alcohol is suitable even for novice drinkers.
Although rice wines generally do not have bubbles or sparkling, theirs do, which is why Martiana compares their tuak with champagne. In essence, you can expect The Rasa’s tuak to have a slight sparkle, sweetness and a little spice of the ginger.
They are available in 2 sizes, 350ml and 700ml, and sell for RM28 and RM42 respectively. Since their creation at the end of May 2021, they have sold more than 100 bottles of tuak.
Bridging generational differences through tuak
Despite their own ways of working with things, this company opened the eyes of Grandma Rasa and Martiana to their respective worlds. Grandmother Rasa finally has more confidence in the Internet and Martiana herself is more in tune with her own culture and traditions.
“Growing up, my grandmother and I never got to agree on things. I wasn’t very proud to be half Bidayuh either because my siblings and I were always teased to be ‘anak orang putih‘(literally’ the child of white people ‘) because we usually spoke English at home and were not very fluent in the bidayuh language compared to now, ”explained Martiana.
“But over the past few years, I have come to appreciate our culture and our traditions. And now I usually let my grandma do her thing and work her own magic. “
The Rasa is certainly not the only one tuak producer around, but what might catch the attention of many would be the rich history behind the family business which Martiana is quick to share proudly online.
To add, there is certainly a charm in knowing that the tuak You Appreciate is the product of a humble 75 year old grandmother who leaves the success of her designs to chance once the hard work is done.
- You can read more about Tuak from the Rasa family here.
- You can read more about the Malaysian startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Martiana Chia, Co-Founder of Tuak By The Rasa Family
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