A queue started on Thursday night, ahead of the opening of the new Gong Cha outlet at SingPost Centre in Paya Lebar at noon yesterday.
The popular Taiwanese bubble tea chain, which exited the local scene in June, has been brought back by new master franchisee Gong Cha Singapore.
It is helmed by Mr Kang Puay Seng, 57, former managing director and co-founder of soya milk food and beverage chain Mr Bean.
By 11.30am, more than 150 people, mostly teenagers and those in their 20s, had joined the queue for Gong Cha.
In Chinese, gong cha refers to “tribute tea”, the action of “providing the best tea to the emperor from all available resources”.
First in line was student Daryl Yoon, 17, and his four friends, who started queueing at 10pm on Thursday night. They were enticed by the 99 free cups that the brand planned to award to the first person in the queue. They initially arrived at 5pm, but when they saw that a queue had not yet formed, they decided to return later.
Mr Yoon says: “I was intending to study through the night, so I thought I might as well study here.”
The new 850 sq ft Gong Cha outlet has 33 seats. Signature offerings (from $2.20 a cup), including its alisan and oolong tea range, and toppings such as ai yu jelly, red bean, milk foam and pearls, are available.
New items on the drinks menu include five smoothie options (from $4.50 to $5.90) in flavours such as mango, purple sweet potato and matcha. There are also three new types of tea latte (from $4.30 a cup), including brown sugar fresh milk oolong and strawberry popcorn fresh milk tea.
The outlet also serves food items such as chicken pie ($3.90); muffins in flavours including blueberry, chocolate and cranberry ($3.90 each); mini chocolate lava cake ($2.50 each) and croissants with fillings such as tuna and egg ($3.90 each).
However, some Gong Cha fans have noticed that a handful of offerings that were on the previous menu are missing from the current one. These include drinks such as honey green tea, lychee alisan tea, ginger tea and matcha latte.
In fact, one of Mr Yoon’s favourite drinks – peach green tea – no longer features on the menu.
But he did not seem to be too disappointed. He says: “I also like Gong Cha’s winter melon tea, which is still available. But there are other new things on the menu.”
Gong Cha first entered the Singapore market in 2009 with former franchisee RTG Holdings.
Last year, Gong Cha’s parent company, Royal Tea Taiwan, sold a majority stake to Gong Cha Korea, which is owned by Japanese private equity firm Unison Capital.
RTG’s managing director Rodney Tang decided to leave the Gong Cha franchise and launch home-grown label LiHO when he learnt that Royal Tea Taiwan had been sold to Unison Capital without his knowledge.
Gong Cha Singapore will have three outlets by the end of the year.
Its second outlet, located at Takashimaya Shopping Centre’s Basement 2, opens next Thursday. Its third outlet, at Northpoint in Yishun, will open on Dec 11.
Next year, it will open a cashless Gong Cha outlet at National University of Singapore’s University Town. Gong Cha Singapore will also be partnering Singapore Polytechnic to launch scholarships in the food and beverage retail sector.
Mr Kang plans to open 50 stores islandwide in the next five years.
The parent company received more than 100 applicationsfor the master franchise in the Singapore market after news broke at the end of May that RTG Holdings would not be renewing its franchise licence.
There are more than 1,500 Gong Cha stores around the world.
Unfazed by the competition, Mr Kang believes that Gong Cha has strong brand positioning and quality offerings.
He adds: “I believe in quality over quantity. The number of stores reflects what you can do, but quality – that is a reflection of how well you can do it.”
•Follow Rebecca Lynne Tan on Twitter @STrebeccatan
•Gong Cha is at 01-141A/B SingPost Centre, 10 Eunos Road 8. It is open from 10am to 10pm daily, but will close at 11pm today. For more information, go to www.facebook.com/gongchasg