“When we first gave people our drinks to try, we were a bit nervous about whether they would be something that the Hong Kong market would like and enjoy,” says Natalie Chiu, co-founder of sparkling tea brand Saicho, which first launched in London in 2019.
She needn’t have worried. Saicho’s first client in Hong Kong was The Peninsula, and more would follow, including The Langham and Ritz-Carlton. “They saw Saicho providing their guests with something different and interesting,” says Chiu.
Saicho produces premium non-alcoholic sparkling cold brew teas. The company came about in response to Chiu’s own need. Unable to tolerate alcohol well, she felt that whenever she ate at fine dining restaurants, there were often carefully considered wine or cocktail pairings on offer, but rarely anything creative on the non-alcoholic side of things. Saicho, with its three flavours—Darjeeling, Hojicha and Jasmine—sought to address this. Like wine, teas are influenced by their terroir and can showcase a wide range of flavours to complement a meal.
In May, Saicho products launched in Singapore, counting Goodwood Park as its first partner, and the brand now has its sights set on additional markets in Asia. There are also new products in the works, with collaborations and flavours specifically crafted for the Hong Kong market due later this year.
Hong Kong is a special place for Chiu—it was home until she was 18—and the warm reception of Saicho here has been hugely fulfilling. While she left Hong Kong in 2008 to study in the UK where she met and married Charlie Winkworth-Smith, fellow co-founder of Saicho, she is a regular returnee to the city, visiting two or three times a year before the pandemic. Unlike many, she braved Hong Kong’s 21-day quarantine to visit in July 2021, spending a couple of months in the city to introduce her then eight-month-old daughter to her father and brother, while also taking the time to visit some of the city’s new restaurants as well as some firm favourites.