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Bubble tea, also known as boba tea or pearl milk tea, has developed into a global phenomenon since it first emerged in Taiwan in the 1980s. Differing tales of its invention have made the rounds, including one notable narrative of a teahouse employee who haphazardly concocted bubble tea by deciding to mix the fen yuan dessert she had been eating with the iced tea she was drinking.
Bubble tea shops initially flourished in Taiwan, but the trend has since traveled across the world alongside the Taiwanese diaspora. Bubble tea shops have also popped up in countries without sizeable Taiwanese communities, including Belgium where 8tea5 bubble tea is making its cultural mark. Herdjie Zhou, Founder and CEO of 8tea5, opened his first shop in the Netherlands and then expanded to Antwerp. In honor of the opening of 8Tea5 Brussels, the latest branch of 8tea5, Herdjie Zhou is here to discuss his brand and concept.
Where was bubble tea first conceptualised, and why is it so popular?
Bubble tea was invented in the mid 80s in Taiwan. Originally concocted by adults to have children drink tea, it eventually became popular among the mass audience due to its unique and delicious flavor. Nowadays, there are more than 8000 bubble tea shops in Taiwan, and it is internationally recognized as the cult-drink from Asia.
When and why did you decide to start your business?
We started 8tea5 to break cultural barriers. The concept is vibrant and appeals to a wide range of audience. We started in August 2012 in The Hague at Noordeinde.
Your shops seem to embody more than just bubble tea. Tell us about your concept and the design element.
Our inspiration derives from the 80s, since bubble tea was invented in that period of time. Using neon colors, black boards, and old bricks, we believe you will truly experience bubble tea in a unique way.
Why did you decide to found your first shop in the Netherlands and subsequently expand to Belgium?
If you have a successful concept in the Netherlands, you can start anywhere. It’s a perfect country to test and improve your products.
In Belgium, we found some great partners to work with us. The brothers Ling Ming Fan and Ling Hua Fan. They both have a great entrepreneurial spirit and have shown that with hardship comes great success.
What is unique about 8Tea5?
We are on a mission to bring bubble tea to the next level. It has been a long way to be where we are now. Paying attention to details and overcoming all the beginner struggles has led to the 8tea5 you are seeing now. We know it’s a people’s business, and we truly care about each tiny detail, whether it is nit picking about a missing element in one of our ingredients or mopping the floor in the store, we truly care.
Do you have any more expansion plans for the future?
Yes, we are looking for more opportunities to expand in The Netherlands as well in Belgium.
8tea5 Antwerp: Korte Klarenstraat 15, Antwerp 2000
8tea5 Brussels: Rue des Fripiers 17, Brussels 1000