MANILA -- Milk tea shops are opening one after another, from local concepts to international brands. But there's a new concept that aims to steal the hearts of tea-loving Filipinos.
Hi Tea Singapore is a brand that offers refreshing tea drinks. No, not the milk tea kind but rather the fruit tea kind.
Fruit teas are teas blended with fruits, either fresh or flavoring. The most common fruit tea in the Philippines are the bottled tea drinks with artificial flavoring.
The brand is a relatively new, which opened in Singapore in 2017. Entrepreneur Kristhoff Cagape decided to bring the brand here in the Philippines after personally enjoying its drinks when he visited Singapore.
“I decided to bring this brand to the Philippines because I've noticed there's no alternative to milk tea yet. It's a new concept here in the Philippines since it's made of cold brew tea and real fruits,” Cagape said.
The first branch is located at the ground floor of Robinsons Metro East in Pasig City and is currently on its soft opening stage but will officially open on April 27.
The brand was co-founded by a group of tea-loving friends. Its first branch opened in Far East Plaza. Since then, it has opened another branch in Singapore, two in Indonesia, and two in China.
“My co-founders and I love tea. We literally can't live without it. Every single day, we drink tea, like milk tea, bottled green tea, oolong tea, etc. We started to realize there isn't really a modern tea house,” shared Darren Wu, co-founder of Hi Tea Singapore.
“We really want to share this heritage and culture of Chinese tea that's why we created Hi Tea. The main vision is to revolutionize the tea industry across Asia and one day, hopefully, the world. That's when we started to conceptualize tea blends.”
Of all the tea shops in Singapore, Hi Tea offers the most fruit tea drink variants.
Hi Tea Singapore blends cold brew tea with fresh fruits. The brand uses jasmine green tea and oolong tea from China. The tea leaves are brewed in cold water for at least five hours before use. According to Wu, this brewing method has advantages than hot brewing.
“We cold brew our tea for five hours, sometimes overnight. Cold brewing reduces caffeine by more than half and there's no bitter after taste. It's also more smooth,” he explained.
The tea is then combined with fresh fruits (blended or squeezed) and most of the drinks are blended with ice like a fruit shake. One of the shop's bestselling drinks in Singapore is the Watermelon Snow, an ice blended tea drink that combines watermelon and jasmine green tea.
There's also the Avocado Snow, a creamy ice blended drink that uses house made avocado cream combined with oolong tea. Mixed fruit tea and lime oolong are also recommended blends by the owners.
According to Wu, the ratio of tea to fruit is 50:50 and only a small amount of sugar syrup is added. They made sure that the fruit flavors do not overpower the tea flavors and the drinks not overly sweet.
Wu also shared that it took them a while before getting the right blends because not every fruit goes well with tea.
“We had to try so many combinations, so many types of fruits. We tried banana and oolong and it didn't work. Sour fruits go well with oolong. Many months of R&D [research and development],” Wu said.
The Philippine shop sources its fruits locally as well. Hi Tea Singapore hopes to lure tea lovers who are tired of milk teas and opting to buy healthier alternatives.
“It's healthier, it's more refreshing, and it's perfect for our weather,” Cagape said.
“We strongly believe that this fruit tea wave will start to take over within the next two to three years, hopefully the same case with the Philippines. The reason being, consumers are being more health conscious. Milk tea has too much sugar added. Fruit tea is a great alternative to the milk tea,” Wu added.
Cagape plans to open another shop by June this year while the brand is readying to open more shops abroad like Thailand.