There are few things Torontonians love more than bubble tea and streetwear, so why not combine the two and really corner the market? That’s exactly what entrepreneur Jason Wang is doing with the new bubble tea experience, Benkei Hime.
Wang describes Benkei Hime as the first store of its kind to really “push the boundaries” between bubble tea and youth culture. The brand includes bubble tea, streetwear clothing, accessories, sports equipment and more.
“We have a lot of [bubble tea] places in Toronto or in the GTA. We're not even trying to compete with any of the existing bubble tea brands because we think we're one of a kind and something that you will never experience anywhere else in this world because this is really a completely new concept,” he says.
He explains the idea to create a bubble tea fashion label came to him while traveling in Korea, so he started the business there. After seeing success, he wanted to bring some of the cultural experience of bubble tea back with him to Toronto. Having lived in Toronto for 15 years, Wang sees the city not only as his home, but also the “centre of Canada,” making it his dream destination to open another store location.
“I wanted to fill the gap of what the current market doesn't offer anywhere in Canada, which is not just a brand, but a culture,” says Wang. “We offer this lifestyle that encompasses bubble tea with all these different things, so we take pride in this novelty and uniqueness of it."
With the restrictions slated to loosen up a bit in the coming weeks, Wang is feeling confident in his brand and hopes that appealing to the younger generation is what will drive his message and his business.
“I would say most of our customers are Generation Z and I think for young people it’s important each time they visit the store, they will have a new and exciting experience, and it will never be the same,” he says.
Geer Than is a food-blogger under the tag @geer.than on Instagram. He regularly post reviews and recommendations for must-try food spots in Toronto and has frequented many of the city’s bubble tea shops.
“In Toronto, there's so many options to pick from but I think that really helps you choose which one you want to go to because different bubble tea shops offer different options,” he says. “For example, if you like real fruit in your bubble tea, you’re going to go to a different place than one that offers mostly powder,” says Than.
Than also describes the culture of bubble tea in Toronto as a type of community, where people can come together to enjoy a shared interest.
“I think bubble tea is one of those places where you go when you just want to enjoy a little bit of a pick me up. So let's say you're with your friends and you all want to do something together, you go to a bubble tea place,” he says.
“What I used to do with my friends pre-pandemic is go to a bubble tea place and play board games and stuff within the store, which really helped connect people,” says Than.
This is something that Wang is passionate about as well. He hopes Benkei Hime will provide a safe and fun place for young people to gather.
“The pandemic especially affects young people tremendously. It's a very difficult time to be a young person… I hope that through this platform we can change the pandemic world and we can put a smile on people's faces, one at a time,” he says.
Benkei Hime will be opening its doors for a grand opening at Eaton Centre on March 1.