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5 Questions With Tily Tea Co-Founder, Geraldine Koh

Question: What's in your tea? We ask because first, a wellness tea movement has emerged in recent years and many of us are partial to herbal brews, made with adaptogens that potentially help with stress and energy levels, blood circulation and even support your immune system. Just remember, whatever the medicinal properties of tea, they are not a cure-all.

Second, like the food we eat, not all teas are created equal. We want to know exactly what we're drinking and where it's come from. Commercial teas tend to be laden with synthetic flavours and preservatives. Have a quick look at the ingredient list of any supermarket-brand Earl Grey tea - you're likely to see artificial bergamot flavouring instead of actual bergamot (which gives the tea its distinctive flavour and added health benefits). Now, where's the health in that?

Tily Tea happily, uses inclusions, the oldest way of adding flavour and aroma from whole, natural ingredients in their teas. Their range of healing tonics are unique; blending traditional Chinese herbs with florals like bergamot peel, lavender and chamomile.

Here, co-founder Geraldine tells us more about the brand’s philosophy, the ingredients they use, and shares her wellness routine with us.

How did Tily Tea came about? After seasons-long of visits to the doctor, with my husband and sons taking turns on the medication carousell, I was in search for a more sustainable way to nourish and build the family’s immunity.  I turned to Chinese traditional medicines and thankfully, my family loves herbal soups. When boiled with stock and fresh vegetables, it is the most comforting and tasty expression of love after a long day at work. I discovered that some Chinese herbs are actually not as “herbal and bitter” tasting on its own and can be made into extremely pleasant and nourishing teas with ease.

Tily Tea founders Geraldine Koh and Michelle Koh

During the same period, my cousin, Michelle had just returned from Melbourne after living overseas for almost 20 years. She found it challenging to upkeep a healthy diet and lifestyle in this food paradise of Singapore. As she became more health conscious, she wanted to care for her body better, and sought for a natural and non-intrusive addition to complement the urban heat of her new home city. Herbal teas seemed like an easy enough way of incorporating into her “always on the go schedule”. Further, as she has very selective taste buds, the benchmark for the taste of these herbal teas was high! 

Did you work with a TCM practitioner to develop your tea recipes?  Yes! We are not medical practitioners, but users ourselves. While we can relate to the modern-day consumer and his/her needs, we needed to be sure that the ingredients did not interfere with each other in an adverse manner and that they can be consumed on a regular, even daily, basis. We consulted a professional TCM practitioner for this. Above that, we research into every ingredient that’s in our teas to ensure there are scientific backings and papers to the alleged benefits. Of course, the proof is in the pudding and we love hearing stories of how the teas have helped our customers find greater attention span, gain better sleep and even control their blood sugar levels, in the most natural manner.  However, it is important to note that these blends have been created with an average body constitution in mind. Some of us are more sensitive to the yins and yangs of different ingredients and environments. Hence, even though most of our tea blends sit in the “neutral to slightly warm” spectrum of TCM, we advise customers with particular inclinations or with specific medical conditions to consult their medical practitioners if they are uncertain of the possible effects on them.  Can you tell us about your ingredients and the sourcing process? We had a long list of requirements for the product when it was first conceived, two of which were “pure and wholesome”. This required the product to be all natural, with no additives and preservatives.

If you take a close look at our product, the ingredients are non-pulverised with minimal processing and you can even open the teabag and pick the roots, fruits and flowers out! It is truly a case of “what you see is what you get”. As such, our work was cut out for us from the onset, to ensure only top quality ingredients are picked and packed. 

We speak to our suppliers on a regular basis, to ensure that the quality of ingredients is maintained at a high level. There is also no compromise on prices, as we do not believe in getting the cheapest available. For example, there are different grades of osmanthus, and the price difference is substantial, yet we choose to use the highest grade available. For root herbs, we use cut roots as opposed to loose and fine bottom ends, in which the latter would be otherwise a lot more cost-efficient.

Should we drink Tily teas regularly to feel/see a difference, as we would any other TCM tonic? Most definitely. Western medicine are typically symptomatic treatments, while traditional medicines require a longer time for discernible effects as it works on optimising the different functions of the body for overall wellness. For example, herbs like codonopsis help to stimulate the central nervous system and to allow a better flow of Qi in the body. When there is good circulation, the different organs and parts of the body are well placed to perform its functions in an optimal manner. When there are blockages, our bodies become more susceptible to illnesses.

Can you share your daily wellness routine with us? My day looks like this: Wake up, freshen up, “lots of shuttling”, bedtime stories, sleep!  Since having kids, it has been immensely difficult to have a regular routine, much less “me-time” and Covid-19 has thrown our schedules further off the grid.

For a while, I felt like water in a meander. Just flowing, sometimes crashing. But there are a couple of things I’m consciously introducing to my days. Time for self-reflection, which includes setting of intentions and and a reminder of my objectives beyond the day and week.

Tily has definitely helped me manage the chaos that 2020 has thrown at us. Whenever anyone in the house feels a cold coming along, we drink lots of Through The Day. Whenever I have some down time for myself, I’ll make myself some Evening Calm. A warm cup of comforting herbal tea is always just an arm’s length and packet tear away. 

In fact, there are some days I wake up looking forward to bedtime. For that, a cold brew of Morning Shine or Through the Day is a nice way to perk up!