Machi Machi, which has a reputation for being Mandopop superstar Jay Chou’s favourite bubble tea store, has finally arrived in Singapore - coincidentally, it had its grand opening on his birthday, January 18 - and we have Project Superstar alum Ang Junyang to thank for that.
When Toggle caught up with Junyang at a private media and VIP preview at Machi Machi’s 25 Arab Street outlet last week, the 38-year-old told us that he happened to chance upon the Taiwanese beverage shop while walking around in Taipei early last year. Impressed by the cute and artistic decor, a lightbulb immediately went off in his head.
“I’m very passionate about the F&B industry and I’m always on the lookout for brands that young audiences can engage with,” explained the enterprising singer, who also opened Thai boat noodle restaurants in 2018. “I saw the opportunity and thought that maybe this could work in Singapore.”
As luck would have it, Junyang discovered that Machi Machi was actually founded by one of his good friends from Taiwan, whom he described as “a very nice, private gentleman” and “not an artiste” (so nope, Jay is not the lao ban of the establishment as some might have speculated - just an avid fan).
Even though he already had the right connections, Junyang and his team still had to come up with a proper business plan and proposal to convince his friend that they knew what they were going to do. “I tell you, there was a lot of competition to bring this brand in, and I’m very thankful to my friend for supporting me and letting my partners and I do it.”
It’s no secret that there’s a bit of an oversaturation in Singapore’s bubble tea market, but Junyang is confident that Machi Machi will stand out for several reasons. For instance, it uses only quality ingredients - from the tea to the cheese to the taro balls - that are freshly made at all times and “not shipped over in tubs from a central kitchen”, as he described it.
Then there is the totally ‘gram-worthy store itself, which boasts wall illustrations that the drinks can “interact” with - perfect for pictures, which is how Junyang hopes will be a way to boost engagement with customers. In other words: remember to take loads of photos and share them with the hashtag #machimachi_singapore.
Of course, he doesn’t deny that having such a high-profile supporter in Jay helps as well, although he clarified that it wasn’t the main reason he decided to bring Machi Machi to our sunny shores. “It was the brand’s own identity that really captured my attention,” he said. That, and the super cute furnishing at its Taipei branch, of course.
Despite having only drinks on the menu, Junyang shared that, to his surprise, there is actually more work involved in Machi Machi’s day-to-day operations compared to his boat noodle eateries. This is because most of the ingredients require their own specific machines and operators, such as the panna cotta, which takes up a lot of prep time (not to mention refrigerator space).
Because of this, it wasn’t that surprising to hear that launching the brand wasn’t exactly a budget affair. Junyang estimates that it cost over S$500,000 to bring it in - he didn’t specify how much of that came out of his own pocket - because “it’s pretty massive in terms of the number of people involved in the kitchen”.
Don’t worry, though - drink prices are still pretty reasonable, ranging from S$3.50 for tea to S$8.50 for Strawberry Latte with Panna Cotta.
While the chances of spotting Jay himself hanging out and sipping on a cup of boba on Arab Street are pretty much slim to none (then again, we would have said the same about him promising to pay for random fans’ meals), we reckon you’d have better luck running into Junyang - who sheepishly admitted that he’s a huge fan of bubble tea himself - or his wife Candyce Toh, who loves it even more (like, “every day one cup” a lot).
“When I told her I was planning to open Machi Machi in Singapore, she said, ‘Go ahead. I’ve been waiting.’ (Laughs)” Ah, the perks of being married to an F&B entrepreneur.
Machi Machi is located at 25 Arab Street and opens from 11am to 9pm daily.