“I’ve by no means related to lei cha from younger. The one time I noticed this dish is when my mum would order from the auntie within the hawker centre and it tasted terrible.”
You may not have guessed it, however James, the one that mentioned the above, is definitely the proprietor of a lei cha cafe known as Jamboo along with his associate, Jenny.
The title Jamboo comes from “jambu”, which suggests guava in Malay. Based on James, lei cha was made utilizing an tools known as lei bo, which includes utilizing a guava department to grind the leaves. The department helps to infuse the lei cha soup with the perfume of guava.
Lei cha, for many who don’t know, refers to pounded tea that’s sometimes loved as a soup and with rice and greens.
The dish comes from Hakka delicacies, however neither James nor Jenny are Hakka—James is Foochow, and Jenny, Teochew. However Jenny’s mum would usually cook dinner the dish for the household sometimes.
“That’s the place I bought extra related to lei cha as a result of on weekends once we went again to her hometown, her mum would put together the dishes and we ate collectively as a household,” James mentioned.
In the course of the pandemic, the hawker centre the couple frequented closed and it turned more and more laborious to accumulate a easy bowl of lei cha.
So, when the couple launched their very own on-line F&B enterprise in November 2021, they determined to incorporate lei cha on the menu.
Going into F&B
James’ father used to run a steamboat enterprise again of their hometown. James and his siblings would assist out with the enterprise by marinating meats, trimming lamb fat, cleansing dishes, and extra.
“These have been days that we love and hate,” James mentioned. “After reflecting on it, it truly gave me a heads up on the dedication earlier than venturing into Jamboo.”
He met Jenny once they have been finding out hospitality administration in Berjaya College School. The 2 additionally joined the school catering crew to assist their lecturer, which elevated their publicity to the F&B trade and hospitality trade.
Upon commencement, Jenny kicked off her profession as a flight attendant for a neighborhood airline, whereas James had moved to the States to work for round two years.
Someday throughout the lockdown, although, James returned from the US. To cross time, he determined to launch an internet meals supply enterprise along with his household and Jenny.
This ecommerce enterprise would show to be a really memorable one for the crew, as it might ultimately result in the start of Jamboo.
Considering again on their first enterprise, James recalled how they needed to rush from the nineteenth ground of their apartment to the guardhouse simply to cross the meals to the riders and clients.
“Or when we’re not well-prepared and never anticipating a high-volume order, we ran out of rice in the long run, and acquired rice from mamak or cancelled it,” he reminisced. “Our kitchen measurement, which is just very best for homecooking, become a catastrophe the place we squeezed round one another to fulfil excessive quantity orders.”
The menu began off with salad hen rice, lychee candy and bitter hen rice, and naturally, lei cha.
Curiously, the crew by no means anticipated that lei cha would turn into a bestseller, because it’s “a bowl of chlorophyll and there’s no hype about it”, as James put it.
However after all, the outcomes spoke for themselves.
One afternoon, as James and Jenny have been delivering meals to their buyer, they began having a dialog about how lei cha is a type of poke bowl. In that lightbulb second, the thought for Jamboo started to materialise.
Modernising the lei cha
As we all know, James has by no means been the most important lover of lei cha. Realizing that it’s an acquired style, he understands how helpful it may be to provide a distinct perspective on the inexperienced rice dish.
“I used to be like why not a store that sells lei cha, however you may select your individual greens and topping?” James questioned. “On high of that you might add protein too. It may assist individuals like me give lei cha a attempt.”
James and Jenny knew it was a good thought for the trade, however the subsequent thought was, who could be prepared to fund them?
Estimating a startup price of round RM400K to RM500K, James wasn’t certain. However he known as his mum and advised her concerning the idea, and she or he responded by asking him to put in writing up a proposal so they might focus on it once more.
“Until right this moment we’re nonetheless very grateful for what she gave us and we thanked and admire what she helped us,” James expressed. “Mum, thanks once more!”
With that, it was time to essentially break floor with Jamboo. One vital a part of the menu is, of coure, the lei cha soup, which takes hours to make.
Based on James, the crew has tried numerous methods to make it and are nonetheless attempting to excellent it right this moment.
Calling their lei cha “Inspirasi lei cha,” Jamboo’s iteration of the Hakka dish isn’t essentially a standard take, as they need lei cha to be extra simply discovered and accepted.
For the Jamboo Bowl, clients can select a base, 4 greens, two toppings, non-obligatory protein, and lei cha soup or different sauces provided by Jamboo.
“At present, we’ve got 5 sorts of base, 22 sorts of veggies, 17 sorts of toppings, eight sorts of proteins, and eight sorts of sauces,” James defined.
Clients may even customise their very own soups to their liking by including extra peanut or herbs.
For additional perfume, James recommends selecting to brew the soup with Jamboo’s specialty tea that enhances the aroma of the soup.
This manner, he hopes to make lei cha that’s not solely accepted by the Chinese language neighborhood however by the Malay and Indian communities as properly.
Not simply the inexperienced stuff
Whereas lei cha is an enormous a part of Jamboo, the crew is aware of they will’t put all their eggs in a single basket.
“So, we infused another café parts to draw the neighborhood to know us from the sorts of dishes and drinks we’re providing,” James reasoned.
Channeling the model identification, Jamboo’s drinks are sometimes inexperienced in color, which is achieved by creating guava-flavoured drinks and matcha ones, the latter being created from imported pure matcha powder.
On high of that, Jamboo serves lei cha butter croissants and oriental pesto pasta, each of that are integrated with lei cha flavours.
“This additionally promotes [the idea] that lei cha might be part of fusion delicacies too,” James defined.
In fact, there are non-lei cha associated dishes too, such because the otak-otak fries, which makes use of a recipe belonging to Jenny’s grandmother.
Making lei cha extra accessible
At the moment, James is working full-time on Jamboo. In the meantime, Jenny continues to be a cabin crew member, however she additionally handles many of the social media content material and advertising for Jamboo.
The crew is seeking to develop by means of licensing this yr.
“All licensing companions ought to have or perceive the visions for Jamboo,” James mentioned. “It doesn’t solely require capital or funding however the perception of lei cha and Jamboo within the coming years.”
Aside from that, the crew is engaged on its retail facet to provide the model’s personal lei cha paste, matcha powder, lei cha butter, and extra.
Within the larger image, James shared that he hopes to see Jamboo IPO and enterprise into different associated companies equivalent to agriculture.
With development, although, comes the priority of displacing present hawkers within the lei cha scene.
To this, James assured that Jamboo’s objective isn’t to promote conventional lei cha or substitute distributors promoting such lei cha.
“From our perspective, we wish lei cha to be re-evaluated and provides the neighborhood entry to this humble dish that requires big quantity of labor and keenness, which isn’t straightforward,” he expressed.
With Jamboo’s refreshed method of taking over the Hakka dish, hopefully the crew will have the ability to do exactly that.
- Study extra about Jamboo right here.
- Learn different articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups right here.
Featured Picture Credit score: Jamboo