A friendship between India and Korea, packed in a Boba Tea- GOT TEA (The word derived from Korean traditional hat – the gat) has managed to slowly seep and bring about a Boba Culture revolution in Delhi.
In less than a year, GOT TEA went from sharing a space to shifting to a new location, it was definitely not the best beginning in the midst of the pandemic but nothing fell short in picking themselves up and making the most out of it (a classic Itaewon Class and Start-up mix, we must say!) We sat down with the founders- Armaan, Jo and YuSung who studied together at Woodstock School, Mussoorie (along with their other partner Su Ah) to talk about their start-up journey, connecting two countries and sharing an equal passion for what they bring on the table, their friendship and a whole new experience in itself!
The conversation begins with YuSung sharing about how their journey started from a casual conversation between him and Armaan during his first return to India eight years after he left in 2011, “As we were in the same school for 6 years, I went to visit Armaan and during the course of conversation, he said there is no good bubble tea place in India, so we joked about how we should start one and it took us 6 months to prep through and start it.”
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It was not an easy road especially because the pandemic broke out just few months into the business but GOT TEA pulled it off with interactive marketing and high quality Boba tea bursting with flavours. The flavours are a personal touch by the founders themselves and mostly, unheard by population here. Armaan says, “Flavours like taro and Black Sesame are something new to the average Indian customer and they have apprehensions but once they try it, they really like it and they keep coming back for more.”
Yu Sung adds in that people have become more experimental and recalls how desi chai didn’t work as compared to hot selling colourful flavours like green matcha and Tropical Thai. He also shares that flavors like caramel brown attracts people more as it is something which they do not get everywhere. All of them agree (and we do too!) that it is the unique flavours that sets apart the standards of what GOT TEA stands for.
For GOT TEA, the pandemic has taught them to be innovative as it has brought about another brilliant idea that is launching soon, the GOT at Home Project. YuSung shared how the project came about during the second lockdown because they wanted to offer something to customers, as their bigger goal has always been to bring authentic bubble tea pan India and the timing clicked. Armaan adds in, “The shortcoming of our product is the shelf life of making fresh bubble tea, as the bubbles harden up in 2-3 hours. To overcome that, we can always open stores in different cities but that will take big budget and a long time so we started this off since everyone was home anyway and this made sense in a larger spectrum.”
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While Hallyu wave has been in India for long, it has quickly picked up over the last few years and besides the bloom of Korean entertainment industry, the accessibility and availability of Korean food has also seen its spike over the last 5 years. In a constant process of keeping the brand afloat, Yu Sung shares that the major obstacle initially was being confident with the products and there was a constant push and pull to add or subtract products in the menu but they stuck to what they believed, in bringing authentic bubble tea. Jo adds in his thoughts, “The inspiration for us is also the feedbacks we get, a lot of foreign customers have also come to our store and told us that it felt like home. I think that is important to keep us going.”
With India becoming a hotspot for start-ups and opportunities, a lot of Korean start-ups have flourished over the past few years from K-food to K-beauty, it has been a market of exploring unlimited options. Something that GOT TEA also believes is that they will be able to connect India and Korea through their brand. Yu Sung shared his story as how they watched Boys Over Flowers during 9th grade and confesses that the rest of the people probably wouldn’t have been familiar with the drama, if they didn’t watch it together then. He also spoke about how especially during the pandemic, people have been into the Hallyu wave more and adds in,
“My passion for coming back to India was connecting India and Korea better because a lot of people have these preconceptions about India that it is dangerous and dirty but its not and I love being here, I love the people so I just want to change that. It’s also a huge opportunity here but because of language barrier and the notions, more Korean people are not coming here. It’s not only about introducing bubble tea but also building a cultural connection through the best way we can”.
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With the unique flavours and the constant surprises of new flavours being added, we were curious to know which flavour they would be launching next, Jo and YuSung give us a sneak peak as they share that they are currently working on different things but Yuzu ( popularly made Korean tea- yuja-cheon ) is something we can expect and perhaps, a warm drink for your winter soul!
With the vision and the passion that they share, the founders spoke about where they see themselves 5 years from now, “We think 5 years is long as well as short time for any business. It’s been less than a year since we started our store which is picking up quite well and of course there will be threats and competition in coming times but we really want to build a community. A bubble tea community in India, not necessarily only our product but also promote and tie up with other brands. We want to grow more organically.”
The Bubble tea community is definitely growing but what keeps people coming back to GOT TEA is not just the insta worthy space or buying a can of Boba, it is also because of the experience. Jo shares, “We emphasize on offering the experience, which other companies do not offer. When you go to other bubble tea stores you are just lost in the menu, we strive that every staff has the knowledge of what we are offering in terms of both flavour and origin”. Armaan adds in that perhaps their biggest selling point would be the quality that they offer versus the quantity and Yu Sung points out that, although they have a larger room to grow but the passion for bringing the authentic bubble tea is what is keeping them together.
Pandemic or not, for the four friends/founders of GOT TEA, the dreams and passion that they share has brought out something new for most people and although it has not been long since they started, they have started to build their own community and space hence showing that they are here to stay.
Have you been to GOT TEA yet? Let us know which K-afes we should visit next!
Stay tuned for a fun video with the founders.