During her time as a corporate banker, Angela Phua would always turn towards a good cup of tea to unwind after a stressful day. And those days were so frequent that she’d eventually leave the finance industry to start her own speciality tea company, A.muse Projects. Four years in, the certified tea master has her unique blends served across restaurants and café in Singapore, including Odette and VXX Co-operative. With tea leaves from countries such as Japan, Sri Lanka, and China, her line of tea blends – inspired by alcohol, coffee, and wine – go under the name BREW, and they are spectacular.
In this edition of City Nomads’ Eye Candy, we speak with Angela to learn more about herself, A.muse Projects, and her lifestyle.
Can you tell us more about your background and your brand?
Prior to starting a.muse, I was from the banking industry, where I had been working for about three years. However, it got to a point where I felt that I was not getting much satisfaction from work so I took a leap of faith to pursue my interest in tea. I started a.muse in November 2013, and its official debut was at The U Factory on 28 December 2013.
To me, tea has always been a source of inspiration, my muse and comfort when I was studying, and when I was working. I hope to be able to inspire others in their daily lives through my passion and little knowledge about tea and through the tea that I source for them.
What first spurned your interest in tea?
I’ve been a fan of tea all along. Caffeine doesn’t have much effect on me so since my university days, I’ve always drunk tea as a source of comfort. It’s something to keep me going through lectures, mugging sessions in the library, and late nights before finals. Even after I graduated and started working, I must have at least two cups of tea each work day: my morning cup to get my engine started, especially when I had a truck load of deadlines to meet; and a cup after lunch to prepare me for the craziness when I return to my desk; and sometimes even a mid-afternoon cup to keep me sane for the rest of the day.
All that while, however, I’ve only been exposed to common blends such as English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Chamomile or Japanese and Chinese teas. Most of them were also tea bags from common brands or tea from our local coffee shops. That was when I realised what tea-lovers in Singapore have been missing out on. I was so excited about the things I was discovering in the world of tea. It’s so simple yet complex at the same time. I wanted to share it with my family and friends and that was when I thought to myself, why not share it with everyone else?
What else do you do besides tea? Any other passions?
Tea is what I have been doing full time for the last few years. Other passions will probably include travelling! I spend quite a fair bit of time travelling incorporating work and leisure at the same time.
Singapore’s been all buzzy about artisanal coffee for the last few years. Do you think it’s about time that tea comes into a ‘revival’ here?
Yes for sure! We can definitely see a stir in the local tea scene. A few signs and indications are an increase in speciality tea options in cafes and restaurants, increase in local tea brands in the market over the last two years, the entrance of the Australian Tea Masters Program in Singapore 18 months ago, where I recently took over the role of running it, and the arrival of international tea brands such as T2.
What is one misconception most people have about tea?
That you can let your tea sit in the tea cup or pot for however long you like without removing it.
What would a ’tea appreciation starter kit’ for the average Singaporean comprise of?
I think it’ll involve a basic tea appreciation workshop! For instance, we do ‘Brief Insight to the World of Tea’ workshops occasionally where we cover what the tea world has to offer us. Next would be some unblended speciality tea and a tea pot with a proper strainer.
What’s the most popular tea blend in your catalogue? Do you have a personal favourite?
It’d be from my Inspired tea collection, the Pina Colada Tea. It’s caffeine-free, fruity, and really great both hot and cold. Personally, it all depends on the time of day and what’s needed. In the morning I usually like something strong, especially on work days. In the hot afternoons…something refreshing?
If you could choose any city in the world to live in, where would it be?
This is a tough one. I think here in Singapore actually. I lived in the United States for four years during my university days, and I loved the four seasons, the cooling weather, and the education system. But home is where family and friends are, not to mention all the good hawker fare!
Your top spots to chill, hang out, and shop in Singapore?
I’m quite a homebody. But apart from that, actually Starbucks! Starbucks has free WiFi for me to work. Yes, I’m a workaholic on the go. But if not, it’s really just hanging out with friends at our homes for dinner and a good drink. I actually like to shop online for the convenience and lack of crowds, which I have to constantly experience during work events. I recently discovered StyleTheory and it’s been amazing. That’s where I shop now.
Check out A.muse Project at the following locations in Singapore.