Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world – and if you ask us, we’d take a soothing cup of chamomile or peppermint any day over an espresso or kopi-o. Even though specialty coffee has grown in popularity over the years, there’s also a burgeoning appreciation of tea in Singapore – especially when it comes to artisanal blends and brews infused with local flavors.
From incorporating subtle hints of local ingredients like pandan, to naming teas after Singaporean landmarks and delicacies, we’ve been seeing more and more made-in-Singapore labels coming up with creative concoctions. So, put aside standard brews like English Breakfast and sip on teas by homegrown brands for an added dash of nostalgia or a whiff of patriotism to your drink.
Think tea bags tagged with inspirational quotes. Or whimsical creations like a nasi lemak tea. Or brews inspired by wines. Whatever your fancy, you’ll probably find it here.
Tea aficionados, familiarize yourselves with these local brands.
With a history that dates back to 1872 (hence the name), the origins of this tea brand began when its founder set up a jewelry boutique on High Street, where he served Ceylon tea to his regulars. Later on, he brought over tea facilities, invested in plantations and got involved with the business of wholesale tea. The brand finally took its product directly to the public when it launched its retail sales in 2011.
Flavors include masala chai, assam, mango punch and apple-teani. If you’d like to try a Taste of Singapore, see if you can conjure up memories of local culture and scenes with a tea that blends the flavors of Ceylon black tea, ginger, mango, pineapple, passionfruit and soursop. There’s also the Sip of Singapore, which brings together its floral Garden tea with rose petals and its sweet Orchid tea with orchid petals and longan.
Beyond its range of teas, 1872 Clipper Tea Co also offers gifting services and customized blends for brands. Oh, and it’s got lovely tea-scented soy wax candles as well – great presents for anyone obsessed with tea.
Seven locations, including #B4-07 ION Orchard.
This 4-year-old homegrown tea specialist concocts original blends that remind the tea drinker of other beverages – its collection of teas includes alcohol-inspired ones, coffee-inspired ones and wine-inspired ones. Pretty neat, huh? Especially for those who aren’t exactly fans of tea.
If you’ve ever wondered what wine and tea would taste like, try a sip of cabernet tea, made with pu-erh, cinnamon, vanilla beans, raisins, cloves and safflower petals. Or perhaps you’d like a taste of caramel macchiato oolong tea, which is a blend of oolongs, rooibos, barley, cornflowers and almond. Then there’s the pina colada tea to bring you to the beaches of Puerto Rico with its mix of hibiscus, apple, pineapple and honeybush.
Of course, it also offers more familiar teas like Earl Grey and genmaicha, with a slight twist, should you want to play it safe.
Retailing at four locations, including Looksee Looksee at 267 Beach Rd.
Sipping on a mug of tea can be an uplifting experience, so says Collaboration Tea, a relatively new homegrown company that creates lovely tea sachets labelled with inspirational quotes on charming watercolor designs. The words of wisdom can also be customized for wedding favors, bridesmaid gifts, birthday presents or even just a small token of appreciation for your loved ones.
Tea blends include regular ones such as Earl Grey and pu-erh, as well as fruity and floral ones like Lychee Martini (black tea infused with lychees), Dessert of Roses (Ceylon black tea infused with peach and apricot, with French rose petals) and Oolong Blossoms (oolong tea, chamomile flowers, forget-me-not).
Nasi lemak tea, anyone? Perhaps you’d prefer to drink your chicken rice? Or maybe ice kachang in tea form is what you’d like? Needless to say, ETTE Tea is pretty out there when it comes to intriguing brews.
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the usually-bustling Chinatown, the brand’s founder worked at other high-profile tea companies before establishing his own in 2014. With green, black, oolong and white tea blends, the selection here is varying and wide, but what we love most is its range of local flavors.
Take the nasi lemak tea, for example. It’s an aromatic mix of houjicha, genmaicha, coconut flakes, dried pandan and dried chilli – and it genuinely does emanate fragrant whiffs of its namesake dish. Another one of our favorites is the mango sticky rice, a blend of genmaicha, black tea, roasted barley, mango dices and candied coconut – it’s basically like taking a sip of the Thai dessert.
So if you’re feeling adventurous, ETTE Tea has plenty of other local flavors for you to try, including pandan chiffon, lychee konnyaku, fortune cookie chai and kebaya blue — a lemongrass and butterfly blue pea mix inspired by the nonya kebaya. In line with its quirky approach to tea, the brand also features blends named after films and songs, such as “The Moon Represents My Heart”.
#03-25, 333 Kreta Ayer Rd.
Taking over the helm of the family-owned tea business, fourth-generation owner Lim Tian Wee established Gryphon Tea Company in 2006, calling attention to Asian ingredients. It’s one of the more prominent tea brands in the country, and you can easily browse through most supermarkets or specialty grocery stores to find its blends, which include best-sellers like Lemon Ginger Mint, Osmanthus Sencha, and Singapura Spice (green tea with tropical fruits and curry leaves).
For newcomers unacquainted with the local tea scene, the “Discover Tea” section of Gryphon’s website will help you curb that feeling of being overwhelmed by endless choices. First, pick your preferred type of tea (black/green/oolong/white), then choose between sachets or loose leaves. Finally, decide what style of tea you typically go for (citrus/earthy/spicy/floral), and choose whether or not to go with suggestions in that realm or to try something new entirely.
Retailing at various major supermarkets, including Cold Storage VivoCity and Marketplace Paragon.
As Singapore’s first silent tea bar, the Hush experience is designed around its deaf “TeaRistas” (think “tea baristas”) leading you into a quiet space of awareness and reflection. It’s ideal for those who are perpetually overworked and overly stressed, because here you’re forced to keep silent in an attempt to reach a place of inner peace.
The social movement organizes corporate events, as well as pop-ups every now and then, for those interested in sharing their stories with others over a cup of tea. Upcoming experiences (Aug. 5, Oct. 7, Dec. 2) include a mingling of people from all walks of life to break down the walls of social-economic class.
Hush also retails its TeaMoods – Undoubtedly Quirky, Simply Romantic and Freshly Tranquil – that hail from Sri Lanka and are blended and hand-packed in-house. Even if you’re too busy to make it for a Hush experience, you can get yourself a Hush In A Box ($128) to recreate your own quiet moment at home.
Its French-inspired name translates to “tea of life”, and the two-year-old brand is all about natural, organic teas with no infused flavors, additives or sweeteners. Sourced from Taiwan, the tea leaves are mixed with traditional Chinese herbs and packaged into sophisticated, pastel-hued tins with labels like Restore (black tea and sun-baked goji berries), Replenish (snow fungus, red dates and honeysuckle blossoms) and Renew (pu-erh with dry-aged tangerine peel).
Curious for more information about each tea? The website also provides information on each blend’s aroma, bitterness, acidity and sweetness, as well as tips to get the best brew. If you find yourself a tea convert after a couple of sips, you can always subscribe to its one-month ($29.90) or six-month ($149.90) service to have four rare premium teas delivered to your home every month.
Oh, and look out for the brand’s soon-to-be-launched line of organic cold teas served in wine-lookalike bottles. Tea just got a little classier, you guys.
Retailing at various restaurants and shops, including Naiise at The Cathay and The Westin Singapore.
A health-conscious tea company that advocates for all-natural herbal brews, Juan Tea was founded by a full-time homemaker and mother of three. It combines traditional herbal teas with modern flavors, and stays away from preservatives.
Blends are available in loose tea leaves and tea bag varieties, with concoctions like Youthful Red, a mix of roselle, French rose, rose hip, apple and dragon fruit; Relaxing Blue made with French rose, butterfly pea flower, lemongrass, peppermint and jasmine; and Energizing Orange of French rose, rooibos, tangerine peel, mango and pineapple.
Retailing at department stores like Isetan Scotts and Tangs Orchard.
It’s all about local culture with Pin Tea, a relatively new boutique brand founded by a group of Singaporeans who’ve combined their love for travel and tea. Taking inspiration from iconic and familiar enclaves across the island, its quirky and bright-colored collections are all influenced by local neighborhoods in name and taste.
The debut Singapore collection features places that every Singaporean would recognize – such as Cha Cha Changi (French rosebuds with tie guan yin oolong tea), Katong Convert (glutinous rice pu-erh tea), Sentosa Sunrise (organic Darjeeling black tea), and Tekka Minute (silver pearl jasmine tea). The name-dropping continues with subsequent new launches, including teas like Quayside Chamomile, Gardens by the Bae, and Belle of Bugis.
While these are great for anyone who’s proud to be a Singaporean, alternatively, you could always gift them to overseas visitors for a non-tacky souvenir from our little island.
Sister brand to Gryphon Tea Company – and set up by one of the country’s oldest tea companies, Lim Lam Thye – Pryce’s forte is elegant Chinese tea that comes with glamorous packaging and affordable price tags. Doing away with the perception that Chinese teas are only reserved for elaborate traditional tea ceremonies, the brand features collections like Shanghai Tisanes, with jasmine rose, lychee osmanthus and mango passionfruit variations, as well as Majestic Treasures, which features lychee red tea and glutinous pu-erh blends.
If you’re looking for a local slant to tea, check out its Singapore collection, which consists of teas like Collyer Quay, a blend of lapsang souchong and assam black tea; Pandan Chiffon, a caffeine-free tea reminiscent of Singapore’s national cake; and Singapore Sling, a concoction inspired by the iconic cocktail.
You know a tea company really loves what it’s doing when it runs a blog about all things tea – topics discussed on Tealy’s site include “why experts recommend drinking tea every day,” “fruit teas to get rid of that afternoon slump” and “the best home remedies using tea”.
Established in 2013 by two brothers, the brand’s range of brews includes the exotic-sounding Eight Secrets from the Far East, a mix of jasmine tea, green tea and oolong tea, as well as the Kimba Fruit Blend, a flavorful combination of pineapple, hibiscus, banana chips, currants and sweet blackberry leaves.
According to TeaPal, which launched its retail brand in 2004, “drinking tea is a way of life”. And indeed it is – the homegrown company started by exporting tea from Fujian, China, to Southeast Asia in the early 1900s, and grew to become wholesalers and distributors in Singapore and, later on, Malaysia.
Keeping the focus on artisanal teas from China, TeaPal brings in an array of brews like Super Long Jing, Da Hong Pao and Silver Pearl that are relatively more expensive than the rest on this list. For something a little more affordable, it also does simply-packaged house blends, such as Beauty, Calm, Refresh and Slim, naming each one after the effects of the teas (for example, Refresh is a mix of mint, hibiscus flower and lemongrass to brighten up your day).
If you’re looking for a floral flavor, try its range of lavender, rosebud and baby white chrysanthemum teas.
Dedicated to the art of Chinese tea appreciation, this traditional-looking tea house won’t have you doubting its authenticity with its elegant oriental décor in a two-storey shop house space that it has resided in for more than 20 years.
Naturally, its retail section offers fine Chinese black, green, white and oolong teas, from aged pu-erh to white peony to imperial golden cassia. Packs of tea bags are also available if you prefer the more convenient way of steeping your tea.
For those who want to settle in for a full tea experience, Tea Chapter offers a selection of Chinese dishes and desserts, including dim sum platters, red dates with glutinous rice, and tea eggs. Or you can sign up for a Chinese Tea Art Course (and bring a friend; it requires a minimum of two people) and learn more about blends in four two-hour lessons ($200/person).
9 & 11 Neil Rd.
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