China is not well-known for the most interesting customer experiences. Most stores and restaurants prioritize function over experience, expending little effort on interior design and service. This results in an often tedious affair for customers.

And then there’s HeyTea, the new-age tea shop chain that invented cheese tea. Its drinks run at around RMB 25 ($3.50) apiece, are so good that I plan weekends around making visits. At a price point 25% higher than its utilitarian bubble tea competitors like CoCo, Happy Lemon, HeyTea delivers on airy cheese teas, seasonal fruit teas, soft-serve ice cream, and the best product innovation department in the business. Hourlong lines are mitigated by its WeChat Mini App, which allows for remote ordering, as well as its pleasant and varied interior design. For me, it’s the best consumer brand.

With the tea beverage market fast becoming a key emerging battleground, HeyTea is well-positioned to deal with the introduction of major players like Starbucks and Luckin. In the seven years since its first location opened in Shenzhen, it has built up a network of 226 shops nationwide.

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Jordan Schneider

Jordan Schneider is a freelancer based in Beijing and the host of the ChinaEconTalk podcast.