“Tea is the foremost drink, enjoyed across the globe. And yet, it was either stuffy and traditional or laden with sugars, flavourings, syrups and everything but tea,” the three founders of Beca Tea shared.
“We wanted to bridge the gap and offer consumers something easy and modern, yet genuine. Tea where tea is the star.”
So as an alternative to coffee houses, boba joints, and traditional tea shops, they opened their own store in Damansara Utama.
Stemming from a legacy business
Behind the brand are fourth and fifth generation descendants of Koh Chuan Huat Tea Merchants Sdn Bhd, a 92-year-old tea business. Namely, PC Koh (CEO) with his wife, Rin Rin Wong (COO), and his nephew, Joshua Ong (Head of Product Development).
Sharing their family’s story with us, they said that the family business started back in Fujian, China. There, the first generation of the family business were smallholder tea farmers.
It was the second generation, Koh Hooi Cheow (whom they call Great-Grandpa), that brought the business to Malaysia in the 1920s. For a few years, the business continued on by peddling tea out of a tin trunk and pulling it across KL on a trishaw.
Speaking fondly of him, they said, “He would cycle from KL to as far as Ulu Yam.” Which is quite a great distance as the journey by car ride would typically already take an hour.
Then in 1931, the first two generations set up shop at Jalan Tun HS Lee in KL. Subsequently, the family incorporated Koh Chuan Huat as a corporate entity to run its tea business.
Today, the shop can still be found on that street and its ventures are still growing strong. According to PC and Joshua, the brand supplies tea to several F&B outlets in the Klang Valley and the southern states.
So why start Beca Tea then?
To put it simply, Beca Tea is a separate entity to Koh Chuan Huat. The family business has continued to thrive by focusing on the B2B segment. But PC and Joshua are looking to capture a more personal market with a B2C approach.
By being a separate entity, Beca Tea is given the space and leeway to craft a business that operates differently. And in their own way, carve out a B2C niche for themselves.
More specifically, one that still upholds their belief that tea shouldn’t be overshadowed with additives.
With this in mind, they spent two years on R&D to concoct such drinks. “We worked with mixologists who understood what we were trying to do, such as Tracia Chan (one-half of Dissolved Solids, a speakeasy in Damansara Kim).”
This includes using cold brewing their teas so that they don’t lose their flavours while sitting in thermos flasks.
And of course, experimenting with different flavour combinations to create rather uncommon offerings. For example, there’s the Squash Supreme (RM15.90), made of green tea layered over balsamic vinegar, oat milk, and oven-roasted butternut squash topped with grass jelly.
“We’re constantly doing R&D on new brewing methods to help us take out the guesswork and variables of brewing the perfect cup of tea,” Joshua explained. “There’s a lot of new technology emerging for hot brews and cold brews. We won’t give too much away at the moment but times have definitely changed.”
A new kid on the tea block
Beca Tea opened its doors on September 30, 2023. Sticking with a minimalist design, the brand’s walls are sand-coloured and its decor made of tea-dyed fabric.
There, you can find its tea offerings categorised into seven sections—The Secret Stash, Nitro-Charged Tea, Pure Milk Tea, Botanical Infusion, Oatmilk Macchiato, Juice-Tea Cooler, and Local Favourite.
If you’re looking for recommendations, the founders shared that these are their “must-try” beverages:
- Lapsang Souchong Coconut Pure Milk Tea (RM12.90), Lapsang Souchong tea with air-dried coconut and milk
- Blessed Fig (RM13.90), Oolong tea with fig and rosemary
- Yuzu Blaze (RM13.90), Moonlight Jasmine tea with yuzu, ginger, roselle, and sago pearls
- Cempedak Talam (RM15.90), Matcha with pandan, cempedak, and coconut milk
- Umami Tarik (RM7.90), teh tarik with kombu
But don’t mistake this place for a regular tea bar or cafe. “We have no plans to serve cakes or baked goods at any of our Beca Tea stores at the moment. We are tea first and foremost, and believe our drinks speak for themselves.”
Though, they did tease that the brand is in the midst of R&D for what they call “Cha-kigori”. So it seems that there will be new additions to the menu soon, perhaps frozen ones?
Putting a spin on the family trade
“At the heart of Beca, we are tea purveyors and blenders who want to reintroduce tea to the next generation. Tea doesn’t have to be traditional or boring. Tea is fun, it’s vibrant, it’s healthy. It’s as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago,” PC stated.
Coming from a tea-based family background, the founders believe that it’s only fitting to do so. Despite having worked in other corporations before this, they chose to stick with the family legacy to create an impact on the tea-drinking world.
92 years in the industry meant that they’ve mastered a good hold on the field, whether that’s from sourcing to blending, or firing to brewing.
So much so that according to the founders, they don’t use any added sugars, artificial flavoured syrups, and added preservatives in the drinks. “Everything is fresh, pure, and made with love from farm-to-cup.”
As such, the bigger goal is to help the younger generation understand tea better.
“If we pique the interest of just one person to Google about tea and how different countries and cultures around the world consume it or to buy their own tea set to start experiencing tea on their own, we’re on the right journey.”
They’re confident that despite the drinks seeming unusual, Beca Tea’s offerings are grounded in basic fundamentals—good tea with real ingredients. So long as they stick with this, they believe consumers who appreciate such beverages will continue to patron the brand.
And in kind, spread the word about Beca Tea to other consumers in the market.
Featured Image Credit: Beca Tea