SKILK is founded by three Hong Kongers (Nicole, Hin and Eric) who are commonly obsessed with the silky and aromatic “Lai Cha” (Hong Kong-style milk tea). Lai Cha is Hong Kong’s take on British tea with milk and sugar, brewed with a mix of a few types of black tea. It gives a rich caffeine punch and finishes with velvety smoothness.
An authentic cup of Lai Cha is surprisingly difficult to find in the UK. Therefore, SKILK wanted to bring authenticity here and preserve this precious artisanship of Hong Kong.
With the thriving milk tea scene in London that is mainly inspired by its Taiwanese origins, SKILK's Hong Kong-style milk tea is a unique entry that sparks attention.
As milk tea enthusiasts ourselves, we at Honest Food Talks wanted to learn more about SKILK and their unique Lai Cha business in the UK. Here is our interview with one of SKILK’s co-founders, Nicole Ma.
Where did the idea for SKILK come from?
In Hong Kong, milk tea ("Lai Cha") is a spiritual daily drink that fuels the city. It is estimated 2.5 millions cups of milk tea are consumed a day in Hong Kong. Lai Cha is listed as one of the cultural heritage.
We three Hong Kongers behind SKILK value our origin and culture a lot. Milk tea has a captivating history and connection with Britain which in a way represents the special identity of our city - a combination of the East and West.
We very much wanted to protect this cultural heritage and wanted to bring the craftsmanship in milk tea making to the UK for people to enjoy. That's why SKILK was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive, keep yourself busy?
With the caffeine in milk tea, we are always high and busy! (like many other Hong Kong fella I guess!)
Since all of our milk tea are made fresh daily by hand, our day can be really full-on busy. After brewing the milk tea, we would deliver our milk tea by ourselves to our customers, retailers and supermarkets.
We also take our time in keeping up our branding and creating engaging content that explains the tea making process, knowledge and stories via social media. After the daily routine, we would actively reach out to brands and retailers for collaboration and stockist.
New product testing and development also keeps us busy and caffeine high!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?
We have a vision in SKILK - make Hong Kong milk tea known and offer the taste of home to people who live elsewhere from our home of Hong Kong. With this objective, we do push ourselves to work harder and be creative.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Learn to know who you really are, what matters to you and what you love to do. Because once you discover the true you and your objectives in life, there's nothing that will stop you from making things happen!
What is the one thing you do over and over again and recommend everyone else do?
Make the most of every second in your life. Try your best to work hard, have fun and love. Make no regrets!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Be creative and tell the story. We put thoughts into product photography and writing about the story - how Lai Cha was invented during the British colonial period; the intriguing relationship between Hong Kong and the UK and the artisanship behind the drink.
Simply tell people why you are passionate about this product and why they should!
What's one trend in the F&B industry that excites you?
What excites us is the possibilities beyond food. The whole dining experience counts. The food source matters. Things done in a sustainable manner makes a difference.
This pushes us to think more beyond the products, be creative and socially responsible.
What is the best £20 you recently spent? What and why?
Buying the ticket for Hampton Court Palace Flower Show!
It is one of the best outdoor event in London for nature lovers. Gardeners and nurseries across the UK will come and display their best plants/design. Be sure not to miss it!
What is your favourite quote?
“Do what you please, follow your own star; be original if you want to be and don't if you don't want to be. Just be natural and light-hearted and pretty and simple and overflowing and general and baroque and bare and austere and stylized and wild and daring and conservative, and learn and learn and learn.” - Constance Spry
What are some of your favourite places to eat at?
Koya London, Dumpling Shack, Bahn Mi 108, Xi'an Impression, and many many more!
What's the best thing to order from Skilk Tea?
Original Milk Tea is our hero product. This is the most authentic experience in getting a taste of Hong Kong.
For people who like intense tea flavour, you will like our upcoming version of "RICH & STRONG" which gives a full-bodied and sumptuous tea profile.
We also have an Earl grey flavour coming this summer also!
Are there any exciting plans coming from Skilk Tea soon?
Yes, we do! We are stocking our milk tea in more and more channels now. We are going to work with contemporary brands like Earl of East, Lucky and Joy, and The Red Duck which we are very excited about.
Are you a coffee lover as well?