Scents that reconnect

Remembering home, history, and culture with Brandon Leung and Baisun

3 minute read
Leung stands with two others in front of a paparazzi backdrop, holding an award
Leung was recognized for his work with Baisun at the Asian Hustle Network conference this past spring. (Photo courtesy Brandon Leung.)

Lighting a hand-poured soy candle from Baisun Candle Company doesn’t simply set a mood. It takes people on a journey. Baisun founder Brandon Leung creates the small-batch candles, inspired by nostalgic Asian flavors and aromas, in his hometown of Wilmington. But his scents have a seemingly global reach that’s transportive for patrons. “My candles take them back to a Hong Kong bakery with sweet, buttery, flaky buns,” Leung said.

Bringing memory to life

Baisun offers more than a dozen scents—from lychee red tea and brown sugar boba to Ashikaga wisteria and candied plum—that celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander culture.

Leung’s personal favorite is chrysanthemum tea. A first-generation Chinese American, Leung spent hot, humid summer days visiting his grandmother in Hong Kong and drinking the cool aromatic beverage. On long walks, Leung recalled, a breeze would sometimes bring a whiff of her crisp black saffron perfume out of nowhere.

“Every time I think about that scent, I see myself holding my grandmother’s hand and drinking chrysanthemum tea,” Leung said.

A name and a platform

Before any candles were poured, Baisun started with the name. During those childhood trips to Hong Kong, Leung would perform the ceremonial tasks of praying for one’s ancestors, a practice known as “baisun.” Those trips—and being rewarded with treats from street vendors after—became some of Leung’s fondest memories. Now through fragrance, Leung aims to share such cultural stories and nostalgia, while also paying homage to his Asian identity.

He launched the company in October 2020. That year, Leung was laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic, and he watched as news spread of hate crimes against Asians. Leung was feeling homesick and wanted to reconnect with his cultural background.

“Baisun is my platform to learn and relearn my history and culture while also sharing that with my customers,” said Leung, who has an entrepreneurial streak and experience in hospitality.

Several candles with 'Baisun Candle Co, Lychee Red Tea' on the label, with Japanese snacks, drinks decorated around the frame
Leung's candles are meant to take people "back to a Hong Kong bakery with sweet, buttery, flaky buns." (Photo by Brandon Leung.)

Running Baisun is Leung’s full-time job, from pouring to marketing. He especially loves sharing “if you know, you know” content that sparks conversation. A post on April Fools’ Day promoted a candle scented like durian, a notoriously smelly fruit from Southeast Asia. (While a joke, Leung said he wouldn’t be surprised if it became a reality someday.) He made ube pancakes in his kitchen before creating the eponymous candle with notes of vanilla and coconut. And when he needs a creative break, he recharges walking the aisles of H Mart in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

Through Baisun, Leung has built connections, both locally and whenever he travels. Recently, Leung collaborated with Little Goat Coffee Roasting in Newark, Delaware, to sell a small selection of café-inspired candles.

Leung recalled wondering if people would appreciate his authentic scents before launching. Well, if you know, you know: Baisun candles can currently be found in about 15 shops nationwide, and can be purchased online and shipped across the US, and they’ve built a following on social media.

What, When, Where

Baisun Candle Company.

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