2 minutes with Lee Heng
Business: My Blue Tea
Lives: Port Macquarie, NSW
What was the food culture in your family growing up?
Multi-racial & international – eating is Malaysia’s national sport. The normal greeting back then was ‘have you eaten?’ Rice is a staple alongside other dishes, usually a couple of proteins, a vegetable and a soup. But we also love our curries, roti canai and nasi lemak which we sometimes have for breakfast.
Any specific memories around the butterfly pea that you can recall?
Growing up and being awed with all these blue kueh (sweets or desserts). Almost every house has a plant but most don’t use them in cooking. Only recently, people have become more health conscious so the trend is increasing and I’ve simply expanded on that.
Is the butterfly pea flower traditionally used as a food or medicine?
Originally, it was considered a food colouring by the Straits Chinese of Malacca, which is now part of Malaysia. It was used to create blue rice and a blue sticky rice dessert called pulut tai-tai. Slowly, it appeared in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat a number of ailments for women, and in India where it is considered Ayurvedic. They are also grown in Australia and are good for the soil by adding nitrogen back into the ground. So they are good for the soil and the soul.
Tell us about your favourite ways to use My Blue Tea powders.
Aside from the colour changing properties of the powders, I actually enjoy seeing the way chefs and bakers are using the various powders to create their products.
A Brisbane client is making all natural cleaning products. In Perth, the first natural blue gelato with sea salt is gaining a loyal following. Trending now in Sydney is both the butterfly pea sourdough and the purple sweet potato sourdough. We displayed these at the Sydney Tea Festival and it received a huge amount of interest. The colours are gorgeous and taste yum!
Why did you want to start your own business?
Over the last few years, I saw that people were seeking to improve their overall health and well-being and were turning to healthier inputs into their diets. After researching trends around health and superfoods, I decided to start My Blue Tea based on natural and organic plant-based products. Slowly, the business morphed and grew with other tropical plants and we have now added a range of ‘exotic lattes.’
What has been the most challenging thing so far and how have you dealt with it?
Helping others to cook when they’re better cooks than myself. Also, trying to expand from food-based into other applications, such as health and beauty products. We now have some customers making bath bombs, bath salts and sugars, as well as facial waters. Another client is also using the products to make play dough. The only negative is the children love it too much and they eat the Kaffir lime leaf play dough because it tastes too good.
Why do you sell freeze-dried powders and how do you go about manufacturing them?
Many years ago, I was involved in a project with turmeric juice, looking at the costs involved, distribution etc. Powder was the obvious way to go. The freeze-drying process is not new, but the process we use ensures that the nutrients and health benefits are retained in the end products, and it avoids any chemical process, so it is better for you.
How would you like to see My Blue Tea grow as a business in the future?
Besides blue, we would also like to introduce other exotic Asian flavours to Australia and we have recently added durian powder, which is great in lattes, and purple sweet potato powder. Colour is a huge factor in both what and how much people eat. If we’ve learnt anything from M&M’S, it must be that even though all the colours taste exactly the same, the human mind sees the variety of colours attractive, fun and tempting.
Like all business owners, I would love the business to grow exponentially. It can do so with the growth in acceptance and appeal of the health benefits of our plant-based powders.
If you love blue, you can follow Lee’s Insta feed @my.blue.tea for her gorgeous creations with the butterfly pea flower.
Interview by Amanda Kennedy @artbyamandakennedy