Trusting your gut

If you cannot get by without your daily cup of tea, and relish the health benefits of probiotics, then look no further than Curated Culture. It produces a range of exciting drinks containing probiotics through science and curation — the process of selecting the finest quality of tea leaves that allows their beverages to be free of preservatives, and full of health-boosting microorganisms.

Curated Culture’s tasty cold brew teas contain zero sugar, are gently brewed with organic tea leaves, sweetened with plant-derived sweetener and enhanced with science-backed probiotics. It is also dairy-free and gluten-free.

Curated Culture is co-founded and helmed by Shermaine Heng as the Chief Operating Officer; Shu Wen Sew, Chief Technology Officer; and Christian Eviston-Putsch, Chief Executive Officer.

“Looking back, Curated Culture was born unintentionally. I was working with a fellow NUS postgraduate student in 2020 in the hope of commercialising the probiotics tea. My aim was to introduce healthy living by providing healthy and tasty food options that people can enjoy and that allow them to feel good about themselves,” Shermaine recounted.

“I saw great market potential in the probiotics tea and went on to bring Shu Wen into the project as we were both from the same Food Science & Technology (FST) cohort," she added.   

At the same time, Christian, an NUS MBA student and entrepreneur, was looking to start a health and nutrition-related business. Having previously worked on fermentation projects, Christian knew he wanted to be a part of this venture when he chanced upon it on the NUS Industry Liaison Office’s research database. The three of them had one meeting and decided they had good synergy, with their shared expertise in food technology and business.  

The trio then took part in THE HANGAR Booster Programme run by NUS Enterprise, followed by the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP), which played pivotal roles in the success of Curated Culture.

During the four-week booster programme, an incubation and induction phase for start-ups, they spent time formulating their business plan and fine-tuning their value proposition. During their time in GRIP, mentors provided guidance that helped them refine their idea through several iterations, and eventually develop their business model. Based on consumers’ feedback, they introduced plant-based sweetener into their drinks.

The trio has not looked back since. While initially, there were obstacles in managing priorities and finding time to meet while juggling day jobs and studies, they have found joy in this rewarding venture. With strong passion and determination, they have decided to go full-time.   

“Everything we have done to date, was all part of the journey. We all make mistakes, and this is part and parcel of learning. Fail fast and fail often. At least we realised our mistakes early, we listened, adapted quickly, and eventually we got it right,” Christian said.

Since its debut in the market, Curated Culture has been well-received. It is currently available online, on NUS campus grounds, and at selected retailers. Since the start of the year, Curated Culture has been working with a contract manufacturer to produce their beverages, and working hard to increase awareness of the products and push out to retail outlets. In the long run, the trio are looking at producing more clean label and healthy drinks, such as energy drinks or drinks with different health benefits.


By NUS Enterprise