She eats, she cooks, and in the downtime she runs her own brand of non-alcoholic beverages, Melati. We met with the former VC Lorin Winata aka @sheeatsshecooks to talk about how her experience in the industry mixed with a longing for home transformed into a line of premium restorative botanicals celebrating Asia. The Singaporean entrepreneur told us how countless work dinners and networking events vital to succeed in the VC industry prompted a solution that we are sure is bound to enhance the networking experience of fellow entrepreneurs all over the world. And don’t forget to follow Lorin on Instagram for your daily dose of top foodie content!
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and what has been your professional path before Melati?
I started out as a VC and am a lifelong foodie and wine lover. After countless work dinners, happy hours, and networking drinks I needed a better drink for connecting at both work and play. After traveling home to Indonesia, I rediscovered tonic drink recipes used since 1293 that celebrate Asian botanicals. After traveling Asia in search of the finest ingredients, Melati Drinks was born, which brings the same heritage, craftmanship and fine flavors as a craft spirit, without the booze. We're bringing Asian botanicals to the world.
Your drinks contain 26 restorative botanicals, and that’s an impressive number. What was the process of making sure they wouldn’t clash and interfere with one another? Are there any of them that should be taken with caution?
I worked with a food scientist and ayurvedic doctor to come up with our blends and shortlist our ingredients from a list of over 70 ingredients that have traditionally been used in Asian tonic remedies to the botanicals we now use. We also worked on a unique extraction process of ingredients that retained all the oils, top note scents, flavor and functionality. We do a cold extraction process for six weeks in water in a similar fashion to perfume making. This is a labor of love, as we ethically source the ingredients (70% is organic from throughout Asia) and compost all ingredients after use. All expressions are designed to be safe for pregnancy and all dietary requirements with zero alcohol and caffeine, but if someone has a specific concern, I'd always advise them to check with their doctor.
Given your years of experience in the VC industry and familiarity with the startup culture, was there anything you were not ready for? What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur so far?
It's always a different journey in any role and starting your own business is something no one is ever truly ready for. The biggest challenges have been going up against the big boys of the beverage space who have made the rules for decades and in building a new category of drinks. It's an exciting challenge to build something truly authentic to your culture in a new category.
When you collected initial feedback on the product, what surprised you the most? Did you have to pivot or change the product significantly only because that was what customers preferred, even if you felt differently?
We collected feedback from sommeliers, bartenders and chefs as we wanted the best pallets from around the world to guide our flavors. However, in forming the final drink my own palate influenced the flavors as someone who loves fine dining and vintage wines as were most of our feedback providers. Once we launched, it was surprising to see so many wine lovers gravitate to our product, as it offers the same heritage, craftsmanship and premium ingredients of a fine alcohol that resonated with their tastes and lifestyle.
A bit about the visual part — what does the logo represent?
Melati is the national flower of Indonesia and and ode to our heritage. Our original recipe was written on palm-leaf manuscripts in 1293 and our logo is a palm tree.
We know that sustainability is one of your core brand values, and we really loved the idea of repurposing empty Melati bottles, especially given how lustrous they look. Could you suggest some ways that our customers could re-use the bottles?
We love repurposing Melati bottles to serve water for guests or as a candle holder.
A confession: we stalked your insta @sheeatsshecooks, and we bow to your cooking skills. Could you recommend some of your favorite food pairings for Melati?
Melati Classic is the perfect match to a cheese and charcuterie board as well as red meat. Melati Fresh is the perfect pairing to oysters, cheese boards and seafood dishes.
What are your plans for the future? Any important milestones you can share?
We look forward to expanding throughout the US and partnering with more like-minded brands. We already did a partnership with Porsche for F1 in Singapore and hope to build more relationships with restaurants, bars and brands that share our values.
Our motto at Boisson is seeing the Glass Half Full. How do you think alcohol-free alternatives like yours allow people to see the glass half full?
At Melati, we're a non-alcoholic botanical spirit that doesn’t just taste good, we also do good and are good for you. Melati is striving to bring luxury to non-alcoholic drinks with fine Asian ingredients, craftsmanship and heritage.