Gotcha has already successfully expanded into Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines thanks to growing interest in bubble tea. Chen said continued support from customers through takeaway and delivery platforms during lockdowns helped the business stay afloat.
“2020 threw each of us so many curve balls … While it was difficult enduring harsh lockdowns, Gotcha is humbled that we have been able to provide our customers with a sense of familiarity and happiness from home,” she said.
“This kind of support has kept our staff in a job and enabled us to expand into new locations, offering more tea, to more Australians.”
Frothing over bubble tea
Chen said the bubble tea trend continues to grow rapidly both in Australia and international markets with more diverse flavours and offerings cropping up in major cities, suburbs and regional areas.
“Australians are always looking for new and interesting food experiences. This upwards trend caught on to bubble tea a few years ago and by no means is it slowing down,” she said.
“We believe this trend continues to grow as more people begin to familiarise themselves and enjoy new bubble tea experiences, especially the western market. Expanding in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Europe opens a whole new market for the industry.”
Thanks to Australia’s diverse population, consumers have embraced Gotcha’s Asian tea culture and European store feel, with the age range of their customers anywhere between 14-50 years old.
Each Gotcha Bubble Tea store is individually designed to “channel the look and feel of a luxury fashion brand” with a European salon experience illustrated by banquettes, soft lighting and a glamorous design.
Its Melbourne Central store, for example, uses a variety of rainbow hues to light up the space creating an ever-changing backdrop for customers to enjoy.
Chen describes the Gotcha store experience as “unparalleled”.
“The interior design of all Gotcha salons are a huge element of focus for the brand in ensuring that customers can indulge in the highest luxury and enjoyment of bubble tea,” she said.
As Gotcha grows, the company plans to take its store design to the next level. This year, the company is also introducing eco-friendly paper cups and paper straws to stores and plans to diversify into a range of tea products.
Engineering a premium tea
Gotcha claims to have established itself as “a connoisseur in the bubble tea market”.
Chen says Gotcha’s strength lies in its ability to harvest the highest quality teas – from the Alishan Tea Plantations in Taiwan – and build impressive product ranges that cater to all generations, palates and dietary needs.
And with handcrafted collagen teas, milk teas, cheese foam, macchiatos, Japanese-style yogurt and fruit teas on the menu, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
“Our brand strategy is built on the promise of providing a high-quality tea experience and education for the discerning bubble tea consumer. Gotcha remains unparalleled with rigorous quality control, from leaf to cup, with our tea being farmed and picked from our own plantation to ensure the highest quality ingredients for each customer,” she said.
Founder Roger Fu’s background as a mechanical engineer and industrial designer led to the creation of a unique tea brew and quick-shake machine that cools hot tea to a chilled bubble tea in half a second.
Gotcha calls it “the Ferrari motor of bubble tea making” and expects it to revolutionise the industry.
“It is an art to master mixing the ice and tea together, cooling down the temperature of a hot drink while maintaining a strong quality and full-bodied flavour each and every time,” Chen said.
“Gotcha’s unique machine was created as a means to professionalise and elevate the making of each tea, instead of traditional handshaking which can standardise the quality of the drinks.”
Fifteen new Gotcha Tea stores are set to open in Australia this year, nine of which will open in the brand’s home state of Victoria, taking the local store count to 40 by the end of the year. The brand is also expanding to New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Singapore and will grow its stores in Indonesia to eight.
Chen also hinted at upcoming collaborations with Hello Kitty and Sesame Street which she expects will be a big hit with Gotcha’s loyal customers.