A young couple from Newcastle have launched a unique new venture for food lovers with an alternative comic-style take on Asian-style bubble tea cafés thanks to help from advisors at TEDCO Business Support.
Manhua Cha has officially been launched by 30 year old David Hall and 31 year old Carine Tsow from Longbenton at the Metro Unleashed comic con event to bring the delights of Bubble Tea to the masses with a special superhero twist.
The bespoke Manhua Cha mobile van offers customers an array of colourful and tasty ways to try the Asian-influenced beverage which has rapidly grown in popularity in the region since its introduction to Taiwan in the early 1980’s.
Co-owner David Hall explains: “Carine’s family is originally from Hong Kong and she introduced me to Bubble Tea quite a few years ago when the drink was only first starting to become available in the UK market. Over the past few years, the demand for bubble tea in the UK, and specifically Newcastle city centre, has grown rapidly. Given our own passion for creating new flavours of bubble tea, it made sense to look at combining our love of the drink with a new business venture.
“It was actually Carine who first decided that we should open a Bubble Tea café selling different versions of the drink. The café would sell beverages which took inspiration from traditional versions of bubble tea to new and exciting flavours that we knew would find an audience with customers more used to western flavour combinations.
“When looking at branding options we decided to pair our bubble tea flavours with our shared love of comic books to develop a more unique and interesting brand proposition that could make us stand out through graphic illustrations and a fun menu that links with our superhero theme. Hence the name – Manhua means comic in Chinese and cha means tea so we are quite literally Comic Tea!”
David continues: “The real drawback came when doing our research prior to looking at premises. We quickly realised that the market was quite heavily saturated with Bubble Tea cafes in the city centre and although we knew our product was different, we felt that we needed to look at the business from a new direction to get an understanding of how we could gain a following and attract customers and so we approached TEDCO Business Support for assistance.”
David and Carine were given business support via the Start and Grow programme, which is delivered by TEDCO Business Support in the North East and supported by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The programme is delivered throughout England by Cavendish Enterprise in areas where there are lower levels of business start-up to help new enterprises get up and running and develop new employment opportunities in the private sector with a range of services, including one-to-one mentoring, business planning and helping new ventures get investment ready.
David comments: “We were assigned Tracy Clarkson as our TEDCO business advisor who has been an exceptional asset to the business so far. It was Tracy who after reviewing our business plans first suggested that we look at alternative routes to market. We decided that we could combine our business idea with our own personal love of visiting street food markets and festivals by offering a more mobile option that takes advantage of the huge growth in mobile food operators and venues over the past five years.”
As a mobile food business, Manhua Cha is now looking at growing its national profile with events planned across the UK over the summer, including the Yorkshire Dales Food Festival as well as festivals closer to home such as Newcastle Mela in August.
David continues: “We’ve now written and published the first issue of our comic book which follows retired super heroes from Newcastle that open a bubble tea shop in the city centre. In the comic we develop a secret bubble tea formula that gives the drinker temporary super powers and we’ve carried this forward into our menu. You don’t just choose a drink, you build your hero in three steps by choosing the super power you want, the accessory you need and whether you want a red cape or blue cape – or in other words, whether you want your drink hot or cold. We have even carried the theme through into the beverage sizes with sidekick for regular and hero for large.”
Manhua Cha launched at the Metro Unleashed comic con event and is now touring the UK at various food festivals and street market events taking place across the country, with the distinctive bubble tea served from the bespoke Manhua Cha mobile van.
David comments: “It’s been an interesting road to getting our business up and running but we couldn’t thank TEDCO and Tracy enough for their support, advice and guidance in helping us develop and set up our dream business. Self-employment is a real leap of faith but we are excited to be setting up a venture doing something that we are really passionate about and can’t wait to get the Manhua Cha van out on the road.”
Tracy Clarkson, TEDCO business advisor comments: “Manhua Cha was a very unique idea for a business and David and Carine had clearly thought at length about the product they wanted to offer and how that product should be presented. Where I could help them both was acting as an independent advisor, taking the time to step back from the concept and look more carefully at how and where it could be executed in a way that would be most beneficial long-term to the business. I’ve worked one-to-one with David and Carine for quite some time refining their business model and ensuring that they have everything ready to launch the business successfully and wish them the very best of luck with Manhua Cha.”