We catch up with Anh Pham, the founder of Paeonia in Windsor, to find our why we simply can’t get enough of bubble tea
What is bubble tea?
Bubble tea is a tea-based drink served cold, hot or iced with chewy tapioca pearls providing an addictive mix of textures. Simply choose your tea, your ice level, the amount of sweetness and then your toppings, with hundreds of combinations to choose from.
Our best-sellers are the fluffy cheese crème brulee with tapioca pearls and fluffy dirty mess – milk tea with brown sugar pearls, fluffy cream cheese and Oreo crumbles – but you can choose from a multitude of fruit and milk flavours.
You can also make bubble tea with a variety of plant-based milks, including oat, coconut, almond and soya, with all popping balls and jellies being plant-based, making Paeonia vegan-friendly.
Why do you think there has been a real boom in popularity for bubble tea in the UK?
Originating in Taiwan in the 1980s, the last few years have seen an increasing amount of bubble tea shops open in the UK, with 2020 in particular seeing a boom in popularity. We have customers of all ages at Paeonia but bubble tea is, without doubt, most popular with the younger, Instagram-friendly generation, who have seen it all over social media!
Bubble tea is so versatile and fun; it is delicious, you can tailor it to suit your taste buds, and it also looks so cute! That’s its appeal. With queues out of the door of Paeonia when we launched and TikTok and Instagram ‘celebrities’ visiting us daily, I was instantly confident that my Windsor bubble tea room would be a soaraway success. The people of Berkshire love bubble tea!
How long were you planning the tea room opening in Windsor?
I was planning to open Paeonia in Windsor for roughly two years, but we were delayed slightly due to the global pandemic. We also wanted to make sure everything was just perfect, so took our time perfectly the décor and getting it just right.
And why was Windsor the perfect location?
I instantly fell in love with Windsor when I first visited the town in 2015. As a keen traveller, I’ve been to many different places, but Windsor has my heart. I instantly knew I wanted to live here. I have to say that Royal Windsor Station is a historical and fabulous location and Windsor is an up-market, lovely town. We are virtually in the shadow of Windsor Castle, which is minutes away.
Did you have any doubts about opening during a pandemic?
There’s no doubt that it was a tricky time for the whole hospitality industry, but when the pandemic hit, we were too far down the line to stop and decided to go for it. Having a premium bubble tea room is my dream and I never stopped making my dream come true. My family and my team have been super supportive during this difficult time. People embraced us in the town and luckily our customers are also able to order deliveries via Deliveroo and Uber Eats, so nothing will stop us from getting their bubble tea to them!
Were you pleasantly surprised with how popular Paeonia was right from the off?
I had confidence that the residents of Windsor and wider Berkshire would embrace Paeonia. We are different to anything else in the UK and we knew that there was space for us here. Our main emphasis is the quality of the ingredients and products and always make sure that the customers get the most amazing experience at Paeonia.
We are a premium, luxury venue where people can come in, enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the wide selection of drinks, watching the world go by from our bright and beautiful location, which has floor-to-ceiling windows and high-class furnishings.
We had people queuing out of the door on launch day and demand was so strong that we sold out of ingredients and had to close for 24 hours to restock. I just knew it would be a soaraway success.
What kind of experience do you want offer at Paeonia Windsor?
Our aim is to bring a very premium experience at Paeonia, where people can get familiar with new tastes they have never experienced before. As a bubble tea-lover myself, I never stop creating new flavours every season to introduce to our customers.
No compromise has been made on the interior design of Paeonia, named after my favourite flower, with our pink and green theme, luxe floral decoration and chic lighting, all creating a very up-market space.
What kind of flavours have been particularly popular?
We have so many popular and seasonal flavours which we add to the menu and I love creating new combinations for customers to enjoy. We have something to suit every taste – hot or cold, fruity or milky tea, caffeine free and dairy or plant-based.
The house favourites are the fluffy cheese crème brûlée with tapioca pearls and Peach and Orange Royal Tea.
Any new flavours on the horizon for spring?
We’ve just introduced Vietnamese iced coffee on to the menu, which is stronger and sweeter than regular coffee, and really worth a try. This is the only kind of coffee in our menu, but becoming so popular in town. I am so pleased to see that our customers love to try new drinks.
Hojicha tea is also new on the menu too, which is a roasted green tea, much like matcha, but with even more health benefits.
We have a fabulous avo-choco smoothie, which will also be appearing soon and lots of other flavours too. Someone asked me about a pistachio flavoured drink the other day and I am toying with that idea too. Watch this space!
Of course, we will also be celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year with something really rather special too. All will be revealed when the time is right.
Where else are you looking to open in Berkshire?
Oh, we have plenty of exciting things in the pipeline, both in the area and further afield, but I can’t speak about them yet. I can’t wait to share them with you when the time is right, though.