Brown Coffee Shutters Gong Cha Tea Shops

Just three years after opening in Cambodia, Taiwan-based Gong Cha, which specializes in bubble tea, shuttered the doors of its five local branches on Wednesday.

Brown Coffee, owner of the company’s local franchising rights, opened the first Gong Cha shop in mid-2013 but has decided to concentrate its efforts on the ever-expanding number of Brown cafes, according to its creative director, Ngy Lay.

“Its operations were fairly good,” he said of local Gong Cha outlets, declining to comment on whether the venture had been profitable.

“We want to concentrate on the main business,” Mr. Lay said of Brown, which now has 11 cafes throughout Phnom Penh.

Gong Cha’s five branches in the city served a variety of tea drinks—from brewed tea to milk tea, with add-on options such as jelly and pudding—as well as coffee, much like Chatime and Koi Cafe, its main competitors.

Ith Sreng, who works in Brown’s corporate office, said Wednesday marked the definitive end of Gong Cha in the country.

“The company as a whole is closed,” Mr. Sreng said. “In Cambodia, there will no longer be Gong Cha…unless other people contact Gong Cha’s owner in Taiwan and import it in the future.”

Employees at the five branches across Phnom Penh would only be out of work for a couple weeks, he said, as Brown planned to transfer them to its cafes by mid-June.

Established in 2009, Brown has been one of Phnom Penh’s most successful local food and drink chains. But the company is facing stiff competition in the high-end cafe scene, most recently with the arrival of Starbucks in the capital late last year. Australian chain Gloria Jean’s and the U.K.’s Costa Coffee have also opened a number of cafes in Cambodia.

Brown co-founder Chang Bunleang told the Bangkok Post earlier this year that the company was prepared to face the foreign competition.

“There are already many international brands here in Cambodia, but as long as we keep working on innovating our products and maintaining our service, I think Brown will still be a favourite place to go to for coffee,” he was quoted as saying.

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