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Boom or bust?: Malaysia’s bubble tea scene approaches saturation point

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KUALA LUMPUR: The sun climbed higher as the clock ticked towards noon, shining mercilessly on those who were forming a long line outside a shop at the business district of SS15, Subang Jaya. 

The retail outlet has yet to lift its shutters, but the people did not mind. They knew if they persevere, the reward for their patience would come soon - in the form of chilled milky beverage studded with black pearls. 

At a glance, there are more than 15 bubble tea shops within walking distance from each other, vying for dominance. 


Top Taiwanese brands like The Alley, Daboba, Chawanjia, The Black Whale, Xing Fu Tang and JLD Dragon have claimed their presence here, while local establishments also mushroomed to peddle their concoctions to the queueing crowd.  





Originating from Taiwan, the ice-shaken milk tea with boba – chewy tapioca ‘pearls’ mostly made from starch – has taken much of Asia, the United States and Europe by storm.

The craze for the beverage in Malaysia had kicked off back in 2010, when Taiwanese bubble tea behemoth Chatime opened its first outlet in Kuala Lumpur, paving the way for other brands to enter the market.

Bubble tea café operators interviewed by CNA said that the fever-pitch demand these days is fuelled by social media. 

With a premium being placed on marketing and product aesthetics, consumers have been encouraged to post the drinks on social media, thus snowballing the attention.



How long can this craze last? Are the businesses sustainable?

Those in the industry are bullish about their prospects. Local brands in particular, say that they are in the market for the long haul. 

However, it is important for businesses to monitor consumer behaviour for signs of the interest dying down, so that they are not caught offside.


Xing Fu Tang, one of the bubble tea brands that have taken Instagram by storm, opened its first Malaysian outlet at SS15 in March. 




Mr Derek Cheong, co-owner of Collab Working Lifestyle, which is the Taiwanese brand’s master franchisor in West Malaysia, said that the timing was ripe for its signature brown sugar milk boba drink - fresh milk with caramel-coated tapioca pearls and topped with a torched layer of brown sugar.   

Malaysians were developing a taste for bubble tea, and there were not many cafés offering the beverage at that point, he recounted.

While he expected competition, the mushrooming of shops around Xing Fu Tang within months of its opening caught him by surprise.

He foresees the competition to get stiffer as more bubble tea businesses clamour into the same street, driving up rents along the way. 

“Rental on our street has risen by about 50 per cent since we opened in March,” Mr Cheong pointed out. Other business owners on the street told CNA of a similar hike.




to read more click here: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/boom-or-bust-malaysia-bubble-tea-saturation-11711138

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