An Independent Food Blog

Tempo Tea Bar is a Scotland-based shop striving to educate and support those wanting to improve their mental and physical wellbeing, through their delicious bubble teas and healthy drinks. They launched Scotland’s first Bubble Tea store in 2013 and have since grown into a diverse drinks bar dedicated to helping everyone find their perfect drink. Hawkker spoke with Tempo Tea Bar founder May Gem about her business and her journey so far.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi, I'm May Gem and I studied Finance & Economics at University. Once I had graduated, the natural step was to get a job in that industry and begin my career in investment banking. However, I realised that wasn’t what I was looking for. I spent all my days looking at a computer screen, despite being more of a people person. That role just wasn’t right for me. I couldn’t imagine having to spend the rest of my life like this, and no amount of money could have made me stay. That’s when the Tempo chapter of my life began.

"I'd always drink bubble tea when visiting family in Malaysia"

How did Tempo Tea Bar get started?

I realised that I wanted to start my own business, but at that point I didn’t know exactly what I wanted that business to be. My initial idea was a frozen yoghurt shop, but I soon realised that wouldn’t work because Scotland is cold enough as it is! It was while on a trip to London that I was reunited with my childhood drink: Bubble Tea. I’d always drink them when visiting family in Malaysia, but never knew its name. I realised that was the perfect product for my business and to introduce to the people of Scotland.

How has your business changed since it began?

We have become more focused on our values and what it is we would like to achieve as a business. Bubble Tea is known as a sugary or dessert drink, and we wanted to keep the same delicious flavour but offer a healthier alternative. We are not solely focused on Bubble Tea though, and we sell other products such as reusable drinkware, sustainable clothing made from bamboo and fitness products to support someone’s overall wellbeing. We have also got an online store where we sell Bubble Tea Kits so customers can create the delicious drink in the comfort of their own home.

"We wanted to keep the same delicious flavours but offer healthier alternatives."

Why do you think Bubble Tea has become so popular?

I think it's popular because it's a fun and delicious alternative to those who don’t like coffee drinks. There are many different flavours to choose from and many different toppings for your drink to make it an exciting experience. It's also very customisable: you can have it cold, hot, or ice-blended, milky or fruity, so there’s definitely something for everyone.

Your business values state the importance of community and local businesses. In what ways do you interact and contribute to your community?

We collaborate with many local artists and businesses whenever we can. We have a range of reusable screw cap bottles which were all designed by artists and groups in our community. We donated 100 bottles for them to sell themselves wherever they want, plus they receive £1 from every bottle sale that we make. There’s also a task we set as part of our staff training, which is for the staff member to create their own drink which will link up with their chosen charity. This is to give them an insight into entrepreneurship and for us to contribute to a cause that is meaningful to them. One of these creations led to our team organising a beach clean-up where over 80 people signed up to help us clean up Cramond Beach, Edinburgh.

"We supplement all our drinks with vitamin C. No other Bubble Tea company has done this before."

Can you talk a little about the medicinal and health aspects of Tempo Tea Bar?

At Tempo we have reduced the sugar content in our drinks and supplement them all with vitamin C. No other Bubble Tea company which I have come across, either in this country or worldwide, has done this before. There are many benefits to drinking tea: they are packed with antioxidants, have a slow caffeine release so you'll never get a crash like you do with coffee, and it's great for the overall support of your body. We know that people are becoming increasingly health-conscious, which is why we wanted to improve our recipe to keep our drinks full of flavour but with less of the bad stuff.

What's next for you and your business?

We will be focusing more on trying to expand our online reach with our store, collaborating with our local cafes to stock our goods and make our products more accessible to our customers, and also continue educating our customers on the benefits of tea, our products, and how to achieve good wellbeing.

Find out more here.

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