Previously working in the finance industry, Angela Phua has spent the past 6 years sharing a myriad of exquisite teas with fellow tea lovers through her company A.muse Projects. Her company has evolved and grown throughout the years and we asked her a few questions about her journey so far. We also featured her delicious Tea Pods as part of our limited edition Christmas Morning Box. Read below to learn more about Angela and A.muse Projects for our latest Breakfast of Champions series.
1. Since the inception of A.muse Projects in 2013, how has your brand/company evolved throughout the years? What would you say are your biggest milestones in the past 6 years?
A.muse Projects (‘AP’) first begun as a B2C brand but in 2016 thereabouts, for sustainability reasons we had to move and gear more towards focusing on B2B business. But apart from that, it’s been more about fine tuning our brand identity along the way. I think the biggest milestone in the past 6 years would be when we first locked in our very own AVA production facility allowing us to supply B2B and exporting as well.
2. You have a wide offering of teas that you offer. What’s your sourcing philosophy? Is the curation driven by your own preferences and taste? Or do you also source teas that the market may find interesting? Does the local market have a preference for a certain flavour profile of teas?
Initial curation and souring is driven by my own preferences and taste however somewhere along the way, market's demand and taste preference does play a part - you need to be able to attend to your customers’ needs. We always take into consideration of their thoughts but because taste is extremely subjective, we’ll hear them out, keep them in mind and when comes a time to make tweaks we’ll find a right balance. At the moment the local market is still very geared towards blended flavours, the usual fruity and flavour and want the flavours to be extremely prominent both in smell and taste. I think it’s because they have been very influenced by brands like TWG / T2 etc.
3. There are several ways to brew and enjoy tea. What’s your favourite and why?
I don’t really have a favourite. I think it’s very much dependent on the mood and feeling of that particular moment when I feel like having tea? E.g. on a cold rainy day like today when I’m working from home, I’d enjoy brewing up a hot cup of tea and it could be tea bag / loose tea - just dependent on what tea i’m trying to clear at the moment (too much tea at home. haha). When you have a cup with a strainer of some sort, loose tea leaves is never an issue. I think the one method of tea brewing which i’d rather indulge in is Gong fu cha brewing method as it’d truly require me to set time aside to set everything up and really just sit there to brew tea. These days, i’m constantly on the go rushing for things so it’s quite tough to have that happen. But Gong fu cha brewing is seriously therapeutic, a little like meditation or Yoga where you kind of have to just focus on thing - brewing tea and respecting the brewing and brew itself.
4. Can you tell us about why you decided to pursue using capsules as a platform to share your teas. Were there challenges or was it straightforward?
The idea of offering teas in capsules was more of a “hey, why not!” thought and importantly it was meant to target a very different tea (or non tea drinking) audience. Technology was definitely available so why not tap on it. But more importantly, it is a different style of brewing which allows me to target a different audience - the coffee drinkers, the non-coffee drinker but also non-tea drinker because a cup of tea seem too tough to perfect and those who maybe like tea but are always on the go and feel like they have no time to spare to brew a cup of tea. I just felt that there must be moments when Nespresso coffee drinkers felt like they wanted a different beverage on a particular occasion so perhaps tea capsules might offer that and it allows them to maximise the use of their machine. Similarly, there must be households who own Nespresso machines have a family member or relative and friends (who visit) who doesn’t drink coffee, now with the capsules they could definitely enjoy tea with the same machine! It’s all about maximising value of the machine. Also, those who feel that tea’s too troublesome or takes to much time to brew or they don’t know how to brew up a non-bitter cup of tea, the machine and the capsule eliminates all the problems by producing a cup of well brewed tea in 22 seconds! Problem solved! Finally, offering the three flavours - Earl Grey, Peach Green and Chamomile lavender satisfies a brew for every need - a black tea blend, green tea blend (fruity too) and a herbal caffeine-free blend (floral too). Challenges to produce the teas was really straightforward because we had the blends ready. We had them in loose tea forms / tea bag format. We just had to have them placed into tea capsules. We use the very same teas in loose tea / tea bag / capsule format. Hence we like to say they are fine teas at ease!
5. How has the response been? And what are your customers saying about brewing tea from capsules compared to traditional methods of tea preparation?
Response has been pretty great for anyone whom we’ve managed to reach out to. But because we don’t have a physical presence, online has been slightly more challenging. But whomever we’ve shared the product with who actually own a Nespresso machine, it’s been a no brainer for them. They are surprised that flavours could still be great when brewed with the machine and how fuss free it is for them. Also, that they now get to maximise their machine!
6. When you conduct your workshops, do your guests easily pick up on the nuances of tea? Maybe compared to wine and coffee? How does one better appreciate the finer teas out there?
The ability to pick up nuances of teas vary from participants to participants. It’s like wine and coffee, everyone’s palate is different. Those with more sensitive palates will definitely be able to pick up more flavours than others and the ability of be consciously aware of what they are tasting and looking out for also affects. Personally I think it’d be great when one practices mindful tasting whenever they are eating and drinking, also when they are grocery shopping to pick up things and smell them. It’ll help train up their senses and taste. This way, when they drink tea or even coffee / wine, it’ll help to taste and appreciate better.
7. What tea(s) would you recommend to enjoy during this holiday season?
Given the current rainy season, any hot tea will be perfect (haha). If i really had to recommend, perhaps an orange mulled wine from our inspired series - a little of the winter-effect/mood. Else a good solid warming Chai would be great too! At the end of the day, any tea which puts a smile on faces would be good for the holiday season (:
8. Last question, if there's one person in the world (alive or deceased) you get to have tea with, who would that person be and why?
Tough one. If I had to choose, I’d choose to have tea with my dog who passed away last april. Dogs love us unconditionally and we can never love them the same and dogs are alway easier to deal with than humans (haha.) It’d be great to have tea with him and tell him how much i’ve achieved over the last year plus since he’s been gone and how much I missed having him napping by my feet always when I’m rushing work etc. (: