Teamaker brews China growth plan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 2011, 12:00am


After launching its first gourmet tea salon in Hong Kong this month, luxury brand TWG Tea will soon set up outlets on the mainland and in Taiwan as part of an ambitious international expansion programme.

The Singapore-based private firm and its corporate partners plan to spend more than US$30 million to launch between one and two new salons every quarter next year in different markets.

Founded in 2007, TWG Tea opened its first eponymous outlet - TWG Tea Salon & Boutique - in Singapore in 2008.

Since then, it has become the world's premier tea supplier to major hotels, international airlines and fine food retailers, such as Harrods in London and Dean & Deluca in the United States.

'This salon in Hong Kong marks our first step to the whole of north Asia and strengthens our resolve to build a global brand,' said Manoj Murjani, chairman and chief executive of TWG Tea, referring to its 1,800 sq ft shop at the IFC Mall in Central.

The upscale shop has an intimate, 50-seat dining area and offers more than 1,000 single-estate harvests and exclusive tea blends from every major tea-producing country.

A pot of its popular 'Singapore Breakfast Tea' costs HK$75. It is a blend of green tea, black tea, rich vanilla and select spices that yields a sweet, complex flavour.

'We believe that our customers in Hong Kong, with their rich tea culture and refined palates, will appreciate our extensive range of teas from all over the globe,' said TWG co-founder and president Taha Bouqdib. TWG Tea also sells its famous loose-leaf teas by weight, starting at 50 grams, in colourful artisan tea tins and smaller boxed packages.

Among the least expensive packaged tea products is the medium-bodied 'Mist of Milanje Tea', from Mozambique in Africa, that costs HK$50 per 50 grams. The 'Yellow Gold Tea Buds', known as the world's most expensive tea from Sichuan province, sells for HK$2,688 per 50 grams. A rare tea, it is harvested at a single mountain location only once a year.

Its leaves are painted with 24-carat gold flakes that supposedly provide nutritional benefits.

Murjani, a co-founder, said TWG Tea, which had total revenue of US$40 million last year, was committed to opening a salon each in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei by the end of next year.

Those will come after two more shops are set up in Hong Kong, and new outposts in Dubai and other markets in the Middle East are established.

'TWG Tea has selected partners in each of the major geographic markets,' said Murjani, adding that the firm had a long-term plan to open new salons every quarter from now through 2014.

It has formed a joint venture with Osim International, the Singaporean maker of electronic massage chairs and other lifestyle products, to cover Hong Kong, the mainland, Taiwan and South Korea.

In April, Osim bought a 35 per cent stake in TWG Tea for about US$25 million.

'We found that Osim has built great [retail] infrastructure across China that we can leverage,' Murjani said.

On the mainland, Osim has 269 outlets in 42 cities. It plans to open an additional 60 to 80 new stores.

TWG Tea's partner in the Middle East is the United Arab Emirates' Emaar Properties, developer of the Dubai Mall, the world's largest shopping mall with a total retail floor area of 3.77 million sq ft.

TWG Tea's rivals include French suppliers Fauchon, Mariage Freres and Kusmi Tea, as well as Fortnum & Mason of Britain.


The cost, in US dollars per pound, of kopi luwak, also known as civet cat coffee, which is among the most expensive in the world