Chinese people have been drinking tea for more than 2,000 years, while milk tea has become a new trend among China’s younger generations. Over the years, we’ve seen some popular milk tea brands emerging in China.
HeyTea is one of the most innovative and upscale tea brands in China. Started in Guangdong, China in 2012, it has 450 stores mainly in tier-one and tier-two cities across China and 4 stores in Singapore. Heytea is well known for its fruit teas, milk teas, and cheese teas. Focused on product innovation and marketing, HeyTea has created social media crazes among young consumers.
HeyTea reportedly closed a new funding round in March, led by China’s Hillhouse Capital Group and US hedge fund Coatue Management. Its post-investment evaluation then was 16 billion yuan.
Nayuki’s Tea 奈雪的茶
Founded in Shenzhen in 2015, Nayuki’s Tea, one of the biggest bubble tea chains in China, sells fresh fruit tea, cold-brewed tea, and baked goods, mostly targeting young urban women between 20 and 35. By the end of 2019, Nayuki’s tea had opened more than 420 direct-selling stores in over 50 cities in China.
In June, Nayuki raised nearly $100 million in a new funding round ahead of a potential listing in Hong Kong, providing the company with much-needed capital to compete for market share with its major rival HeyTea. Prior to the newest funding, it had completed its series A in 2016 and series A+ in 2018, both led by Tiantu Capital. After round A+, the bubble tea brand’s valuation reached about 6 billion yuan.
Honey Snow City 蜜雪冰城
Founded in 1997, the Zhengzhou based Honey Snow City is one of the most popular tea chain brands with the largest number of stores in China. On June 14, 2020, it opened its 10,000th store. It is well known for its milk tea, fruit tea, ice cream and other products, and most of the them cost below 10 yuan. The stores are mainly located around universities, pedestrian streets, and shopping malls. The tasty but low price drinks are welcomed by young students.
In October, the Chinese tea drink and ice cream giant was reported to reach a valuation of 20 billion yuan after the latest fundraising round led by Hillhouse Capital and Longzhu Capital, while preparing to go public, according to 36Kr.
LeLeCha, which literally stands for “Happy Tea”, opened its first store in 2016 in Shanghai. It is best-known for starting the “Dirty” tea and “Dirty” bread trend, where the tea or bread is absolutely filthy with cocoa powder.
In April 2019, LeLeCha announced the completion of a 200 million yuan Pre-A round of financing led by Vertex Holdings, Jiaxing Drop Asset, Pusi Capital, Z&H Investment, Hina Group and Ruchuan Capital.
Cha Yan Yue Se 茶颜悦色
Cha Yan Yue Se is a popular milk tea brand exclusive to Changsha, Hunan. Founded in 2013, the brand now has around 300 stores in the city. You can see one Cha Yan Yue Se store on almost every block in Changsha’s popular business districts. It is the first milk tea brand in China themed around Chinese style, combining traditional Chinese culture and a modern aesthetic.
After its series A financing in 2019, the modern China tea shop announced that they would expand into other cities, starting with Wuhan in 2021.
Yi Dian Dian 一点点
Taiwanese milk tea brand Yi Dian Dian, started in Taipei in 2010, specializes in Taiwanese style milk tea, fruit tea and coffee. Currently, Yi Dian Dian has over 600 stores in China and the Philippines. And the tea brand is expanding operations into countries such as England, Thailand, and Japan.
Coco Tea is also a street bubble tea brand originating in Taiwan in 1997. It entered the Chinese market in 2007 and has more than 500 stores in three years. In 2015, it had more than 2,000 stores world. Other than China and Taiwan, it has also entered the US, Australia, and many South East Asian countries.
Happy Lemon 快乐柠檬
Happy Lemon was founded in Shanghai in 2006. It has branches over 100 different cities in China and is expanding to the USA, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Thailand, and more. Happy Lemon is the first freshly handmade bubble tea franchise chain shop floated on the stock exchange market in December 2014.