Khun Thai Tea heading for Singapore

Singapore’s Khun Thai Tea, the franchisor for the Thai iced black-tea brand that originated from a pushcart in Bangkok, is about to launch its first outlet in the city.

This follows its establishment in the Philippines last year as its first step toward expansion in Asia.
Elis Chai, who co-founded Khun Thai Tea along with fellow Bronze Media Singapore owner Jeremy Lee, says their company has retained global rights for the brand, based on a recipe created in 1955 by Auntie Marlee, the sole proprietor of a pushcart in Sukhumvit.

“Her recipe for ‘cha-yen’ was restricted to her family members,” says Chai. “Her pushcart soon came to be Sukhumvit Soi 11’s best-held secret. Its popularity rose in tandem with the street’s fame, which was earning a well-deserved reputation as a dining and nightlife destination.”

More recently, Auntie Marlee began searching for successors to continue and expand on her pushcart’s legacy, finally tying up with Filipino Nancy Padilla. This led to SM Mall of Asia in Manila becoming the first outlet outside of Bangkok to feature Auntie Marlee’s tea in June last year. Padilla owns and runs the Khun Thai Tea Shop (Philippines), including “khun” (Thai for “respect”) in the franchise name as tribute to Auntie Marlee.

Two more Khun Thai Tea outlets followed: one at Star City Amusement Park in Manila, and another at MegaMall Manila in the Ortigas business district. Lee says more branches are set to open in Manila before the end of this year.
With Khun Thai Tea established in Singapore as global franchisor, Lee says rapid expansion across Asia is planned. “We will strive to bring a Khun Thai Tea branch to every Asian shopping mall.”

As well as the tea, the shops offer other Asian-influenced drinks as well as snacks. The drinks include the coffee and tea mix yuan yang, first brewed in Hong Kong, and ice bandung, inspired by a Malaysian recipe that combines rose syrup with milk. Taiwanese-style boba (small tapioca balls) are an optional extra.

Snacks include Thai-influenced items such as crispy kangkong and tea toast.

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