Soap Kitchen: With an Appetite for Soap
Posted: Aug 31 2015
A while back, we decided that Tailor On Ten ought to have its own signature scent to accompany the signature tailoring. By coincidence, Alisa walked through our door one day and as it turns out she’s the proprietor of Soap Kitchen, a successful local soap company that we’d admired from a distance for some time. They focus on quirky, food-inspired soaps, handmade to the highest standards. Things clicked and The Tailor On Ten Signature Scent Soap is now available, which you can read more about here. But first of all, we sat down with Alisa to get to know her and learn a bit more about Soap Kitchen.
Where are you from?
I’m half-Thai, half-Taiwanese, but I’ve lived my whole life in Bangkok.
What’s you favorite thing about Bangkok?
Despite being a permanent local here, it still feels like I don’t completely know Bangkok that well yet! It’s a place where you just discover new things all the time. It’s my city, but it continues to surprise me.
Any favorite travel destinations in Thailand or beyond?
I like to go to the beach. My favorite is Krabi -- around the less touristy areas. During the “winter” (ed. note: winter is a relative term, it never goes below 25 degrees Celsius) I like to go to Khao Yai National Park. It’s best to get a car as it can be hard to get around, but it’s a beautiful drive. They have vineyards too, but the wine isn’t that great.
I really like Hong Kong as well. If I had to move somewhere it would be to Hong Kong. I feel like I can relate to the people; they’re friendly, upbeat and fun. There’s a great food culture too. I can see why it’s called New York of Asia. It’s both organized and beautiful; it has a good balance. It’s surprising too, as you always think of Hong Kong as a city, but the other side of the island is so different with gorgeous beaches, hiking trails, and small fishing villages. The Sai Kung District is amazing.
As a contrast, I also really like Sweden. It’s in Europe but more organized and calm than the rest of the continent. I like the classic European style, and especially how Sweden combines it with modernity. The nature is beautiful too. You can wake up in the morning and go hiking through the forest or along the river. It’s not like Bangkok.
How did you decide to start Soap Kitchen?
It actually started as a hobby for my mom and myself, as we wanted an activity to do together. I used to go to Taiwan a lot and I’d bring back nice soaps, but when I started college I didn’t have time anymore and missed the soaps. So we figured we’d try to make them ourselves. We got lots of books and did research and tried 100’s of recipes in small batches. We had some disasters and some really good ones.
We made the famous Beer Lao soap for fun at the suggestion of some colleagues of mine one time at Beervana. It turned out really well and that’s when we realized we were onto something. One soap that almost made me give up was the oatmeal & honey. We tried to make it a ‘dessert soap’, but we put too much honey on it and when we came into the kitchen in the morning it was totally covered with ants. It went from being a hobby to a business gradually. A friend suggested we should sell the soaps so I created page for us and later joined a farmer’s market. Since then we’ve built up a huge following. We’re in a few shops in Bangkok and looking to open our own flagship store.
Why did you decide to use food as inspiration?
It wasn’t really intentional. I love food and cook a lot, so that’s where my mind usually is. We started making the soaps in our kitchen – and we still do!
A self-professed foodie, Alisa runs a mouthwatering Instagram account under the pseudonym Bangkok Munchkin (@bkkmunchkin). It’s all starting to make sense...
What makes Soap Kitchen unique?
It’s really handmade. It’s not just touched by someone at the end of the process. We mix the oils, blend the fragrance, mold, cut and package everything ourselves. We’re not afraid to experiment, which has led to some really unique products. I wanted us to be different. You always see organic soaps and they all look and smell the same. We wanted to be natural but also fun. The unique designs, nice packaging, lots of online interaction, and an easy language. The way we put it, the ingredients are safe to eat, so the soap is safe and good for you!
What is the process for coming up with a new soap?
It starts with inspiration, which can come from anywhere. Like the extremely popular mango sticky rice soap, I was eating mango sticky rice, which is delicious. Then I saw a mango scent and figured, this could be doable for a soap. Whenever I smell or taste something nice, I remember and think about how I can use that idea.
Then there’s the practical side: finding and combining the scents and creating the design, like mango sticky rice, which looks like it has diced mango on top. After that it’s time to test. These days we usually get it right the first time. We know the right temperature, how to achieve a specific pattern, etc. My mom handles the production while I do the concept and designs.
What’s been the best selling soap and which is your own all time favorite?
The best selling one is the Beer Lao one. It’s funny, as that seems to be the one product that gets men excited about soap! We’ve discontinued it now in order to keep things fresh, but you never know, it might come back one day.
For people visiting Thailand or for gifts, the mango sticky rice is a constant favorite! My own favorite is stardust, which smells of geranium, lavender and lemon and is made to look like a red velvet cake. It’s got 60% avocado oil, which is very moisturizing, so it’s more of a face soap.
What would be your dream location for a flagship store?
Somewhere on Sukhumvit or Thong Lo. I really like Thong Lo as you get a good mix of people and lots of nice places around. If I was dreaming a bit, I’d love to have a shop in Hong Kong too, of course!
What’s in the future for Soap Kitchen?
Expanding with new products and indeed setting up our very first store. We’re going to continue to innovate, as we don’t want to become boring!
We can’t help but to want to eat the soaps, but we can confirm that they are much better for washing yourself and indulging in an inordinate amount of luxurious lather. To read more about our collaboration with Soap Kitchen, click here.
TOT Recommends: Mango Sticky Rice is not only our favorite Thai dessert but also our favorite “flavor” from Soap Kitchen. Of course the exclusive soap they created just for us is still the one closest to our hearts. (It's also the only one available online... right here!)