CUPP Bubble Tea Leeds: Meet the owner of the bubble tea franchise drawing in huge queues to Trinity Leeds
CUPP Bubble Tea has earned something of a cult following, with queues filling Trinity Leeds when it opened its newest store last month.
Offering a variety of flavours of 'the drink that you can chew', the business was founded by Lee Peacock after he returned from a three-year stint teaching English in Taiwan.
As he celebrates the launch of his ninth store, a kiosk on the upper floor of the Leeds shopping centre, Lee looks back at how the CUPP journey began almost a decade ago.
“Bubble tea is the national drink of Taiwan," Lee, 37, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“There’s bubble tea on every street corner and you can’t escape it.
“I wasn’t that keen on it at first, I thought it was a bit odd. But then I found myself craving bubble tea when I was on my scooter on the way to work.
"It crept in and that was it - I was sold."
Bubble tea, which traditionally consists of tea, milk and chewy tapioca pearls that you slurp through an oversized straw, originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s.
After the idea for his business had formed, Lee spent months sampling the nation's variety of bubble tea shops, from small vendors to franchises, before training in an independent tea shop in Kaohsiung to perfect his skills.
He launched CUPP in Bristol in 2012 in a converted Citroen van, later setting up a shipping container at some of the UK's biggest festivals - including Glastonbury.
“The response was amazing, we had queues straight away," Lee added.
"It did take a while for bubble tea to kick in though, we were quite early adopters. A lot of people came to the stall and asked for normal tea!"
After the success of the first bricks-and-mortar shop in Bristol, CUPP is now rapidly expanding with nine stores and nine more in the pipeline.
Customers can customise their bubble tea to order, choosing from a selection of milk, fruit and matcha teas and a variety of toppings - from the traditional tapioca pearls to crunchy basil seeds.
“My dad is from Leeds and I’ve got a lot of family here," Lee said.
"We’ve wanted to be in Leeds Trinity for a very long time and because the popularity of bubble tea has grown, they were willing to take us on."
CUPP is branded as a premium bubble tea retailer, offering a healthy alternative to some of its competitors.
Lee added: “In Taiwan, bubble tea is made with fresh, real ingredients.
"From the get go, I was always adamant that that’s how I was going to serve my tea - the Taiwanese way.
"We use fresh fruit, organic milk and real ingredients instead of any syrups, sugars or powders."
Lee hopes to grow CUPP into the biggest bubble tea operator in the UK, as well as going international.
He said: “The last 18 months have been a real rollercoaster, we’ve had to pivot and constantly adapt to every new change in legislation.
“But it’s my baby. I've got a goal of where I want it to be and that keeps me going.
"Seeing the queues whenever we open a new store makes me really happy, knowing I’m doing something right."
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