PETALING JAYA: Step into Beca Tea’s maiden outlet in Damansara Uptown, and you’ll probably be struck by its minimalist, almost-rugged interior.
A fashionable modern teahouse with tea-dyed fabric installations and digital displays, it’s hard to believe its history dates back to almost a century ago!
Co-founded by PC Koh, his wife Rinrin Wong and nephew Joshua Ong, Beca Tea offers a range of healthier, more exciting tea-based blends and brews, in a mission to reinvigorate the tea experience.
“We’re trying to introduce tea to a younger generation. We want to see how we can make this classic beverage new and palatable to them,” Koh, who is also Beca Tea CEO, told FMT Lifestyle.
“That’s why me and my nephew are working closely together. I bring the old, the traditional methods of making tea, and Joshua helps bring in what’s new, what’s happening!”
Koh and Ong are the fourth and fifth generation of a prominent local tea dynasty, whose business has been brewing for 93 years. While their previous operations involved selling directly to other businesses, Beca Tea marks an exciting foray into the consumer-centric world.
Beca Tea’s story begins in the early 1920s, after tea farmer and trader Koh Hooi Cheow sailed from his home in Fujian, China, to Malaya.
Once here, he sold tea produced by his father, Koh Ming Fang. Rising early every morning, the Hooi Cheow would cycle from Kuala Lumpur to far-flung spots such as Ulu Yam, Tanjung Karang and Kuala Selangor, peddling tea from a tin box on his trishaw. The company name, ‘beca’ (‘trishaw’ in Malay) pays tribute to these humble beginnings.
In 1931, the family acquired a tea business on Jalan Tun HS Lee, which was later incorporated as Koh Chuan Huat Tea Merchants Sdn Bhd. The shop still operates to this day.
Beca Tea was launched in Damansara Uptown on Sept 30 last year: this was followed by another branch in Bangsar South, as well as a tea truck, the Roving Tea Bar.
Moving to a customer-centric focus has been interesting, but the family are adapting well to the new approach.
“We have a vision statement for the company, with three components. The first two are to make a perfect cup of tea, and to give superior customer service. But the third, which I don’t think many other companies have, is to bring our customers on a journey of discovering tea,” said Wong, who is Beca Tea’s Chief Operating Officer.
Beca Tea’s menu begins with their “Secret Stash” of five base teas: White, Green, Oolong, Pu’er and Black cold brews. If this is not your cup of tea, don’t worry, there are many other exotic choices to try.
One highlight is the Yuzu Blaze, a zesty botanical infusion incorporating fresh yuzu juice from a farm in Koichi, Japan. Or try the Elderflower Fairy, which merges floral and fruit notes in an invigorating symphony of flavour.
Then there’s local champ Teh Tarik, which the company has been distributing for seven decades. It is blended from 11 types of tea from five countries. Dessert fans can also indulge in Cha-kigori, which blends shaved ice and tea flakes for a frosty and fulfilling treat.
Beca Tea’s products do not contain refined sugar, artificial syrups, preservatives, or colouring, relying on natural infusions and botanicals instead. Some selections are concocted by renowned mixologists, such as Tracia Chan of local bar Dissolved Solids.
“When it comes to tea, we embrace our tradition and heritage. But we are also not afraid to venture into uncharted territory,” said Ong, who is also head of Product Development.
Beca Tea is optimistic about the future, and has expansion in mind. They frequently embark on recce trips for new tea experiences: despite all their decades of experience, there’s always something new to be learnt about this wonderful brew.
“Tea is the one beverage, apart from plain water, that is universally and globally accepted. It transcends culture, religion and nations. It is the simplest form of a flavoured drink, and has so many varieties: to this day, we are still finding new ones. And that’s probably why it has thrived through the generations,” concluded Koh.
Uptown Damansara Utama
61, Jalan SS21/1A
47400 Petaling Jaya