Canadian Entrepreneur Plans Major Expansion for Upscale Bubble Tea Concept

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Long-time Calgary restaurant owner Kent Leong is poised to launch a unique bubble tea concept that he intends to grow across North America.

The launch has been delayed by the COVID-19 crisis but the veteran of the food and beverage industry is laying the foundation for growth now for his Black Pearl Bubble Tea company.

Leong, who has a stake in about five restaurants in Calgary and is well-known for his ownership of Melrose Café, said the grandiose plan is to eventually expand around the globe.

“Bubble tea has become an icon for people and is commonly known as simply ‘boba’ around the world. Google Trends indicate rapid growth of popularity of this drink overtaking other classic beverages,” said Leong.

“Collaborating along with bubble tea experts from around the globe we arrived at the new concept Black Pearl Bubble Tea company which is looking to expand firstly in North America and around the globe. What makes Black Pearl Bubble Tea unique is the different natural ingredients and original drink recipes.

“The oldest known bubble tea consists of a mixture of hot black tea, small tapioca pearls, condensed milk, and syrup or honey. Many variations followed; the most common are served cold rather than hot. The most prevalent varieties of tea have changed frequently.”

COVID-19 Delayed Expansion Plans

Leong said Black Pearl Bubble Tea has currently slowed expansion plans as a result of COVID-19 and is looking forward to growing the business in the near future when it is safe to proceed.

“The company was formed by myself and Pierre Chan. We’re taking it and re-introducing it to the American market because right now bubble tea is a big item but they keep pushing it as an Asian market drink,” said Leong.

“It’s still the Asian drink but what I want to do is introduce it to the North American population. We’re trying to put a twist on it so it would be more conducive or make it more American. Some of the stuff they’re putting in there is more strictly an Asian flavour.”

Before the COVID-19 crisis hit the world, Leong was working on the franchise concept and rolling it out.

“We were looking for locations at the beginning of the year to start building it into a Calgary brand here but all of a sudden this COVID-19 thing started happening and people who wanted to buy into the franchise were gun shy to put money into it,” he said. “That’s the hold back here because we have development across Canada. We even have a development agent that’s in Ontario already.

“As soon as we understand what’s happening with businesses right now at hand, I’m not sure what to say about when we’ll get it up and running. But we’re going to try and get about 100 stores into Canada within the next three years and then we’re going to start developing in the American side almost right away. There’s people who are looking into alternative drinks.

“Basically wherever we can actually go into. We’ll do the market research. It’s a healthy alternative these days. I was looking into something new, something different. Trying to move the business forward offering the public another alternative item to try, another alternative drink to try.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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