Madalene Poon, the founder of Kindred Teas, certainly has an interesting life. She graduated from Singapore Management University with a degree in Marketing but then went on to Le Cordon Bleu Paris to pursue her childhood dream of being a baker. Along the way, tea captivated her interest when she chanced upon a Youtube video where she was amazed that all tea came from one single plant.
“I always thought of myself as quite a simple person, and whatever I took an interest in, I’ll just do it,” Madalene muses. Tea blending, like baking, allowed her to play around with different flavours while also serving people something they enjoy, which she finds great joys in.
Other than coming up with new recipes, she also loves to get active and do some runs in the early morning, her favourite spots in the city are MacRitchie Reservoir and the Marina Bay promenade, which is surprisingly empty in the early morning. At other times, you may find her relaxing in a cafe in Holland Village, enjoying brunch or some tea with her loved ones.
She remembers drinking tea with her family as a child and everyone would gather around cups of tea to make conversation. The tea – Lipton black tea, boiled (so it’s really strong) in a big pot along with pandan leaves, and then milk and sugar is added to one’s liking. The memories of bonding and creating precious moments over tea was something she wanted to create with Kindred Teas.
Kindred Teas currently carries two types of blooming teas – Blessings and Endearment. Each tin offers 4 different types of blooming teas, all with a green tea base. You might have noticed the interesting names of the teas – in Blessings, there is Gratitude, Longevity, Harmony and Prosperity, while in Endearment, there is Devotion, Desire, Affection and Adoration. The names were given as Madalene wanted to position her teas as gifts and with the gift, comes with those positive messages behind it. Blessings seem to be a more popular choice among her customers, as the auspicious messages resonate well with all situations.
The first time she chanced upon blooming teas, or flowering teas, was back in her junior college days. While eating at a Chinese restaurant with her family, she was fascinated by the beauty and uniqueness of the tea. Each blooming tea bundle is made by hand – it is a long process, which can take up to weeks as the tea leaves need to be threaded together with the different blossoms used.
Her other teas are all inspired by her travels – the Elder and Cream Black Tea modelled after the Holunder Spritzers she drank while on exchange in Austria, while the Roobios Orange was born after she saw the sun, resembling an orange, setting over the horizon in savannahs of South Africa. It was the first time she saw such a breathtaking sight and the memory remained with her to create the tea.
The more traditional blends also have a travel spin to it – the Dong Ding Oolong (a personal favourite of hers) is inspired by her travels in Taiwan and dedicated to a close friend of hers who lives there. The Dong Ding Oolong typically grows on high mountains and reminds her of the gorgeous mountain views while hiking in Taiwan.
Genmaicha Matcha-iri was inspired by her trip to Japan where she attended a traditional tea ceremony that engaged all her senses. She felt a sense of peace that she had never felt before and wishes to express it through this blend.
Madalene also teases a new tea blend with local flavours infused – a pandan, butterfly pea houjicha. This blend, slated to launch in 2020, was tricky to perfect since houjicha tends to brew a little dark, but the tea needed to be light enough for the vibrant blues of the butterfly pea to show through. The reason she chose houjicha, is because of its roasted flavours that would be perfect complements to the well-loved yet greasy Singaporean dishes.
Another flavour in the works is again inspired by her travels – this time by her favourite baker in Paris – a lychee rose raspberry black tea that draws on the flavours of Pierre Herme’s classic Ispahan macaron.
Seeing her lifelong passion for baking, and her current interests in teas, I was curious about what would be her perfect tea and dessert combination. Madalene’s answer? Tea-infused chocolate, drawing from her stint working under Janice Wong, a well-known Singaporean pastry chef.
When Kindred Teas just started in 2017, it was one of the first few brands to introduce blooming teas in a small artisanal tea market in Singapore. Right now, the tea scene in Singapore may not be as big as coffee, but it’s growing, with more local brands popping up that curate and blend artisanal teas. While coffee may be embedded in the fast-paced Singaporean culture, tea embodies the opposite. With a recent movement on healing and wellness in Singapore, tea represents the perfect beverage to slow down and relax.
The golden rule of tea blending that she always follows? Always let the base tea shine. “If a tea has to be flavoured so much that you can’t even taste the tea, it might be a bad quality tea,” Madalene points out. The flavours should boost the tasting notes in the base tea, not empower them.