Nooks And Crannies: Kebun At Upper Cross Street

Drop by Kebun Specialty Tea Latte Bar for a spot of vegan latte.

On the approach to Block 531 Upper Cross Street, a maze of medicinal halls leads you to a clearing. Forge ahead and you see Kebun Specialty Tea Latte Bar. Just two months old, the tea shop serves vegan tea and coffee lattes, and retails loose leaf tea blends. While the 200sqft space it occupies is small, the crossroads it straddles are large.

Tiny tea shop on the corner

‘Old and new’ is one. Like the number of new cafes, gyms and studios that have mushroomed here, Kebun stands well-juxtaposed with traditional tenants in the area. In fact, turn left as you exit the shop and you segue into a more vintage vignette of Chinatown. A bird’s nest shop flanks you on your left; squirrel further down and you’d find an old-school grocer.

Yet another intersection is that between fast and slow. We think at first that Kebun takes the fast lane. With a mere six seats in the house, it’s not a place for lounging. Yet upon entry, you’re beckoned to take time to smell the tea leaves sourced from Australia, the US and Sri Lanka, and blended by a tea master in Sri Lanka. The teas are brewed to order in glass tea-drippers, and take as much time as they need to be ready. Meanwhile, a scent candle burns in the background, evoking the lush tranquility of a kebun (Indonesian for ‘garden’).

Myriad tea blends at Kebun

But the junction of mainstream and niche is probably the most significant. Kebun counts among a growing number of vegan-friendly establishments who see their products appealing to a larger audience. Co-owners Sham Bakri and Eddy Ng, both vegans, decided to start Kebun when they were unable to find affordable alternative drinks that had a creaminess akin to cow’s milk.

Their recipe for homemade cashew mylk, developed after seven to eight months of R&D, is central to their product. They use Indian cashew nuts from Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh, and soak them before grinding them. Says Eddy, “This breaks down phytic acid so that minerals can be absorbed properly and helps neutralise enzyme inhibitors, allowing for proper digestion.” Adds Sham, “We don’t use any additives or other ingredients such as carrageenan to make our cashew mylk. This means the nutritional value is kept as high as possible.”

Freshly brewed (Photo: Kebun)

Add to that a host of tea blends, such as ondeh ondeh, white rose lychee and pomegranate hibiscus, and they’ve found themselves drawing interest from vegans and more than a few curious non-vegans too. Some of the tea lattes on their roster include Seoul misugaru latte ($5.50), featuring cashew mylk with black sesame seeds, black beans, black and brown rice, and barley grains; and royal Thai latte ($5.50), with black tea, orange blossom and crushed tamarind seeds. We tried one of their signatures, the earl grey latte ($5), which was mild, nutty, a little sweet, and ended with a large earl grey hit on the palate.

Kebun earl grey latte

The duo do not rule out using other nuts such as pistachios, hazelnuts or macadamia nuts to make their nut mylk in the future. For now, they are focused on pairing their cashew mylk with an ever-growing range of tea blends, and starting their customers off on journeys of new discoveries.

#01-41, Block 531 Upper Cross Street. Tel: 9009 8375

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