Saturday, July 6, 2013

Qi is the juice!


When I first heard of Qi Juice on Facebook, I thought "oh great, just what Lebanon needs; another weight-loss craze that promises to transform anorexic fantasies into healthy optimal weights" and which usually and typically end up being nothing more than bait and switch for women longing to weigh and look like unrealistically airbrushed supermodels. 

And since 'Tis The (Bikini) Season, naturally, I was intrigued (because who doesn't want to look like a airbrushed supermodel, right?)
Original Photo: Qi Juices

But when I reached the beautiful old Ashrafieh neighborhood where Qi is based, I had to leave my high horse at the door because as I met founders Hana Alireza and Leila Fakih Nashabe, I immediately realized these ladies are not your typical quick-buck scammers. Far from it, both are highly educated women with degrees from prestigious universities under their belts and a proven track record in entrepreneurship. 

Furthermore and as would be expected from any true professional, they did not simply copy a business concept from abroad but instead made sure they gathered other talents to offer a comprehensive and successful experience by enlisting the guidance of nutrition consultant and juice cleansing expert, Natasha Henry who has been running smilar practices for years in the US and worldwide and has the following to say "After conducting numerous raw-food cleanses, green-juice fasts, liver flushes and other detoxification protocols (...) over a  number of years, I can confidently say that this preventive approach really works". Henry is also in charge of creating the various juices recipes in order to ensure each provides maximum nutrition and detox value.

So when they invited a number of journalists and bloggers to visit their "Qitchen" as they like to call it and try their freshly cold-pressed juices while learning more about the program, I was delighted to join in!


The "Qitchen" is located in a nice Ashrafieh neighborhood in Beirut that seems to have grown to love Qi as when I enquired about them, their neighbor told me "They are in that street, to the left, let me walk you. You've never been? The shop is lovely!"

Good start, wouldn't you agree? It can only mean positive things when your neighbors like you!

Photos: R. Abouzeid

A beautiful "summery" greeting space was set-up on the sidewalk with green parasols and a juice tasting station. All the guests gathered there for a warm and friendly chat over juice shots. It was indeed lovely and both Hana and Leila were pleasant, welcoming hosts. It felt like they were inviting us to visit their home rather than a business. No wonder the neighbors find them "lovely". Another one passed by during the tasting, and she was promptly invited to join in. Small businesses with a soul are the best kind!

A friendly neighbor passes by and is invited to a taste of Carrot!
Photo: R. Abouzeid

We had a nice chat outside while we discussed and enjoyed Qi Juices before we were invited to visit the now famous "Qitchen". 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

The minute you walk in, you can immediately understand the kind of people Leila and Hana are. The main door leads to their office where desks are located in an open, personalized and super organized space, that is surprisingly small when it is compared to what would be expected from an owner or CEO. No arrogance, no coldness. Just a humble, "human" space from which you can see the "Qitchen" through a glass window and door. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

That would be the heart of the locale. It is a fairly big space and I guess choosing a location in an old neighborhood gives you one major advantage: high ceilings. They are just brilliant! And unlike usually claustrophobic, dark factories, wide windows allow for sunlight and basically, happy, smiley staff! 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

The work stations are spacious and offer enough room to work comfortably.

And most importably, you can feel the cleanliness. You do not just see, smell or touch it. It is an overall feeling there. The spotless white walls and bright stainless steel work stations and refrigerators just shine thanks to the hard work of the staff that are constantly making sure the space remains immaculate.

Photos: R. Abouzeid
Every batch is pressed, stored in jars and immediately placed in refrigerators.
Photos: R. Abouzeid

After giving us the tour and introducing Qi Juices in detail, Leila and Hana disclosed a fantastic surprise: anyone interested was welcome to concoct their own juice recipe, make it and taste it. Needless to say we had a blast and the ladies that gave it a try actually came up with yummy recipes! So much fun!

Photos: R. Abouzeid
Photos: R. Abouzeid
Photos: R. Abouzeid

But let us be honest, fun is good but it does not guarantee quality or health, right? So how about we go through the main questions that we were all eager to ask?

The press kit and giveaways
Photos: R. Abouzeid


The first question that was on everyone's mind this swimsuit season was, naturally, "is juice cleansing a weight-loss diet?"

Ah, yes, the eternal existential booby trap.

But at Qi, there is no BS in anything. Just as the main ingredients are all guaranteed to be fresh and organic, so is the marketing. The answer was straightforward and utterly honest: "No". 

Of course, when you undertake a cleanse, you may loose some weight but Qi Juices do not claim to offer a weight-loss diet and whatever decreases you may notice will most probably be water losses. The importance of cleansing lies in a fresh start for your body. When you undergo detox, you clean yourself from the inside-out helping you take that step towards healthier lifestyles. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

"Some follow juice cleanses to lose weight but we like to promote it as part of a holistic shift to a healthier lifestyle and getting into better shape, inside out" explains Leila.

Following the cleanse, and after your body has adapted to cleaner intakes, all the while getting rid of all toxins, you will find it harder to go back to junk. Simply, you may still eat unhealthy but when you do, you will immediately feel uneasy. And it is not only remorse and your conscience raising a huge red flag. It is also because your body will find it harder to digest junk.

Environmental Pollutants Vs. Green Magic
Photos: R. Abouzeid

And because during the cleanse you will have to let go of poisonous substances like alcohol or tobacco,  as well as less obvious dangers such as processed and genetically modified foods (which by the way are not labeled as such in our parts of the world), it is the perfect new beginning.

By changing fundamental habits and acquiring new healthier ones, weight-loss will no longer be an issue. After all, shouldn't health be the primary goal? Weight will undeniably follow when healthy lifestyle choices are adopted. 


How about this "organic" label which has become the forefront of one of the fastest-growing... Marketing gimmicks? You thought I was going to say "industry", didn't you? We all know "organic" is very in style nowadays, almost as much as the fact that in Lebanon, trustworthy sources are scarce. 

Qi Juices guarantee that their ingredients all come from organic sources which are regularly audited. In fact, at any time, an inspector might come in the "Qitchen", take samples of ingredients and/or juices and send them for analysis. Should any result come back positive for chemicals, all the production will be halted until an investigation is launched, the contaminated sources are identified and proper measures are taken. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

There are currently three suppliers in Lebanon with which Qi Juices collaborate: Biomass, Biobox (Facebook) and Healthy Basket (Facebook), all approved by international and local quality assurance organizations.


Now of course, any ingredient, no matter how "clean" they may be, can easily be contaminated or simply turned into a health hazard. That is why "organic" does not necessarily mean healthy. Organic foods can be cooked into unhealthy meals, obviously.

So in order to ensure all the nutrients in their veggies and fruits are well preserved, all Qi juices are cold-pressed. The ladies explained to us that it has been proven through simple lab analysis and comparison that juices we find in regular shops on the street and which are supposedly fresh and healthy do not contain as much nutritional value because they are not cold-pressed. 

The equipment used at Qi has been carefully chosen to secure maximum health value in each juice bottle. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

Also, and this is not of small importance, since all locally-grown ingredients are seasonal (juices recipes vary depending on the seasons and the available fruits and vegetables that grow naturally during that specific time) the body will absorb a wide array of nutrients which can only be achieved through a diverse diet. 

My children's pediatrician always tells me that each fruit and vegetable contains a treasure. Why would we decide to disregard one while we know the others do not contain that same valuable nourishment? Variety is key.

Agriculture in plastic tents may allow for fruits and vegetables to be available all year long but that would be a loss to our organisms. Nature has offered us a large spectrum of choices to be enjoyed each in their own time. By doing so, we allow our bodies to take in all the nutrients available out there, during their respective season, and without any chemical contamination (which would otherwise lessen nutrients and raise health dangers).

Photos: R. Abouzeid

Finally, the juices are "completely vegan, dairy and gluten-free, and do not contain any additives or preservatives". 


I have always been a fervent fan of fair trade and businesses that support local industries. The locally-grown agriculture sector is the lifeblood of a large population in Lebanon and it is a must for entrepreneurs not to get overzealous about importing produces from abroad under the pretense that they are of better quality. Flying in and storing these products alone sheds a doubt on how healthy these foods will be/remain. 

However, instilling some sense of community, citizenship and corporate conscience is definitely as important as making profits. 

And this goes in line with Qi's philosophy. After all, healthy habits that apply to individuals should also apply to society as whole. You cannot pretend to better a person's quality of life and ignore the community. The community is made of these individuals and for better quality of life for us individually, we need better societies for us all. 

Impacting on other businesses and communities positively is a duty and a responsibility and I was happy to see Qi understands and lives by that philosophy. It is like I said before, and I can only commend them for that ethic: there is indeed no BS in every aspect of their business. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

The cleanse is a one to five days program "designed to rest your digestive system and deliver a powerful boost of nutrition to your body". 

It is already hard enough to commit to such a diet so to make things easier on their customers, Qi takes care of everything, including home delivery, no matter where you are in Lebanon. No hassle, no stressful traffic rides to get to the shop and get the juices, no worries. They will come to you while "you can just focus on feeling better from the inside out". 

All you have to do is make a phone call and get on with the program!

The delicious shots I tasted at THE QiTCHEN COLD-PRESSED JUICE EVENT
Photos: R. Abouzeid

A menu of juices is prepared for each day, varying the tastes but also the benefits of each intake. Each recipe is designed to fit the hour of the day and energy needs at that specific time (morning start-ups are different from the last evening juice) .

"The body's digestion of processed food alone requires a lot of energy. Additionally, the body must contend with high levels of pollution found in the air, water and food supplies, as well as toxicity from medical drugs and increased exposure to radiation". 

"Going on a juice cleanse is a natural, safe and convenient way to give your organs a much-needed break, and supply your body with the vital nutrients it needs to function best".

So why don't you take a well-deserved break too? 
I know I will definitely schedule a detox this summer before I return to hectic Dubai ;)

Photos: R. Abouzeid

Hana Alireza
"Creative, entrepreneurial and eternally optimistic, Hana is the one who came up with the idea."
  • Education: Archaeology degrees from Brown University and Oxford University
  • Notable previous achievements: Co-founder of and The Brave Heart Fund. Also consulted on the renovation of the AUB Archaeological Museum and served on its Executive Committee for six years. 

Leila Fakih Nashabe
"Energetic, positive and a gifted problem solver, Leila has an amazing way of getting things done."
  • Education: Political Science degree from the American University of Beirut, MBA from Strathclyde University
  • Notable previous achievements: Corporate education at HP in Dubai for seven years where she increased consumer business by 60% followed by two years as Business Development Manager for UAE's Canvas Magazine and another two years creating the marketing department for furniture designer Nada Debs in Lebanon.

Photo: Qi Juices
The juice I ended up taking home :)
Photos: R. Abouzeid

If you are interested in learning more about healthier lifestyles, try to watch "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead". The film is available on YouTube. Thanks for the tip Qi! ;)
Here's a sneak peak at the trailer:

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