May Gem Tan a.k.a Boba Queen is a co-founder and owner of Tempo Tea Bar on Queen Street in Glasgow. She left her job in 2013 at a large financial institution to start a bubble tea company.
From our research we noticed that other bubble tea places menus weren’t very flexible. There was no option to mix flavours and it seemed you could only choose one flavour and the type of tea was already picked for you. I know that people get overwhelmed when you give them too much choice, but surely having more options is better than none? That’s the way I see it and wanted to make sure that my menu reflected that, I didn’t want to restrict my customers to just one flavour, what if they wanted to experiment? I know I would want that. I figured the best way to do this would be for customers to choose each ingredient for their drink and by doing it in steps this way by breaking it down from steps 1 to 5. That meant they could choose their flavour, their tea, whether it’d be cold, warm or blended and also their topping. Some places put in tapioca as default whether or not you want it but I don’t get why they’d do that as I only like it in certain drinks! Plus not everyone would like the taste or the chewy texture so it might even put people off bubble tea for LIFE!! And that’s just not what we want! I’m glad that we created our menu the way we did because it differentiates us from other bubble tea shops. Plus customers love mixing flavours together which just adds to the fun factor that we aim to create!
So the next step was what flavours do we offer?? We looked at other bubble tea places and what flavours they had on their menu and that’s where I discovered TARO!! It was on every single menu that I looked at but I had no clue what the heck this Taro was! So I googled it and found it that it’s a root vegetable similar to sweet potato and it was a PURPLE drink!! Amazing! The only way to figure out what flavours to have would be to ask the people in Scotland and hold focus groups. I was overwhelmed by the response I got from the surveys, all my friends and family were so supportive and sharing it via facebook and I got such a positive response. As I thought, no one really knew what Taro was but also quite a few didn’t know what lychee is which surprised me. But then thinking about it, the only reason why I knew about it was because my family are from Malaysia and we were exposed to many exotic fruits – YUM!
For our focus groups I got my friends involved and also friends of friends! The very first focus group was a bit of a disaster…everything is a learning curve I guess. We didn’t have enough cups so we had to wash them, we didn’t realise how quickly people would drink them, and we thought we’d have enough time to make the next one whilst they drank them but we were wrong. All the participants were so patient whilst we were manically making them and creating chaos in the kitchen. At the end of it the kitchen was a state!! The next two focus groups weren’t quite so crazy, we learned from the first one and improved the process so practice really does make perfect! With the responses we received from both the survey and focus groups it was enough to compose our menu. As I said earlier we wanted to make our menu different so we made fun cocktail type bubble teas where we’d mix two flavours together and call them a fun name! From my research I found that no other bubble tea place does this and I don’t know why. Perhaps they didn’t want to play about with the menu too much and just follow other places which were successful but I mean if you don’t try you won’t know. So I thought why not, let’s make ours different and make it more creative. I find that bubble tea is kind of like a wee cocktail bar, I mean we use the shakers, can mix up different flavours and they’re really colourful. It’s definitely a more unique experience than a coffee shop.