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So many flavours? What to choose?

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.


Menu 1


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.




Tan’s tip top tea bar? TeeHee Tea Bar? Tempo Tea Bar!!

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.



The next stage was to go ahead with looking for a shop unit. There wasn’t much out there in terms of the size that we would need, everything on the market was far too big and therefore expensive.  After checking the property sites regularly we seen Baguette Express on Queen Street pop up and we couldn’t believe our luck. It was in a great location, a good size, not too small or big for our first shop so we had to get it straight away! Little did I know that the whole process would be so long!! We decided to source a retail agent to aid us with acquiring the unit as it was our first time doing this so didn’t want to get screwed over. It was a very tedious process but also a great learning curve so going forward I think we will negotiate the deal ourselves now that we know the ins and outs of it and it’d save us a couple of quid.


Majority of the time it would be very frustrating because it was such a waiting game and you couldn’t keep pestering the other party otherwise they’d know you were desperate and therefore would not be willing to agree to your terms! We then had to figure out the name of our shop, the character of it, basically what did I want people to feel when they walked through our doors.


As a starting point we had to figure out our brand so we researched existing bubble tea shops to see what aspects we liked from them and what we didn’t like. I noticed that the names of other bubble tea shops would have ‘bubble’ or ‘boba’ within their name like Bubbleology, Chaboba or Bubble Base. I didn’t want to just be another bubble tea shop, I wanted a shop to stand out from the rest.


I got my friends round one night to brainstorm names and we’re big on alliteration so naturally went through every word that started with ‘T’ as we wanted to be called something ‘Tea Bar’. We must’ve went through over 100 words, came up with things like ‘Tan’s Tip Top Tea Bar’, ‘TeeHee Tea Bar’ and started to think that it was a lost cause and then my friend said ‘Tempo’ and I just KNEW that was what my shop would be called. From there the musical branding of my shop was born. I love going to local gigs and supporting local bands so thought it’d be the perfect fit in Glasgow plus it’d let me do a lot more with the shop and not just become ANOTHER bubble tea shop!



And the winner is…Bubble Tea

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.

Processed with Moldiv


After deciding that I wasn’t suited for the corporate world, I started researching other types of jobs which I felt would be more me. I looked at working for a charity, marketing jobs, fashion companies but nothing really caught my eye. Then after talking to my brothers I found out that they were keen to start their own business and that’s where it all began. We played around with the idea of frozen yogurt and even done some research until we realised that we lived in Glasgow and the rain/cold was not a stranger to this city. Therefore we put that idea in the bin and started again.


We went to London over the Christmas period in 2011 for a wee break and got some bubble tea and couldn’t believe how popular it was. It brought back memories of visiting my family in Malaysia and drinking this fun drink with chewy balls at the bottom. I had no idea that it was called bubble tea and I had been drinking it for years! At that moment we knew that we were going to be bringing Bubble Tea to Glasgow. The drink is so versatile that it can be served cold, ice blended and warm so no matter what season it’d be suitable whatever the weather unlike froyo.


So this is when all the hard work began, we researched suppliers and tested out the products and we forced our mum and dad to sample all the bubble tea! It was pretty easy to choose our supplier as their products were by far the best.


The next stage was doing market research and finding out what flavours to choose to create our menu so we created surveys and held focus groups. The focus groups were really positive and so that further confirmed my decision that bubble tea would be a success.



Bubble Tea Beginnings

 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.

I went to university and got a degree in Finance and Economics so the natural progression would be to go into that industry right? So I went and got myself onto a grad programme for a large financial institution and that’d be me set for life ye? How could I be so wrong! I thought that I’d climb the career ladder until I realised that there wasn’t much of a career ladder to climb.


The job itself was mundane, the tasks didn’t push me to use any of my knowledge I gained from uni. I felt like I could’ve just sat in front of the computer all day, done nothing and it wouldn’t actually matter, that’s how important I felt. I mean don’t get me wrong, at the start it was all very exciting, going shopping for a new corporate wardrobe, getting to go to London for 2 week’s training but soon all that excitement faded away. I felt silly dressing in nice office clothes when people in my office dressed pretty casual, so soon my pretty dresses and heels were exchanged for school like trousers and flats…boring! I felt like I was back at school! It was depressing to think that the majority of my life I’d be wearing these dull clothes and that just isn’t my style! The whole office culture just wasn’t for me, I felt like a robot and my days weren’t very fulfilling so I needed to explore my options.


It was certainly a good experience, met some great people and I don’t regret one day of it, as otherwise I may not have ended up with my fun bubble tea store. It’s crazy to wonder if I had went for another grad job and actually enjoyed it, would I have ever opened this business…probably not! So, this is where my bubble tea journey began, it wasn’t a very easy journey! My next post will reveal where the bubble tea idea came from so keep your eyes peeled or link up to Tempo’s facebook or twitter where we’ll announce when our next post is up! Hope you enjoyed reading this post! Ciao!