Meituan-backed Heytea test drives beverage lockers in Shenzhen ahead of major financing round

Its customers sometimes queue for hours for their tea.

Photo: Tuchong

Heytea, a Chinese cheese-capped tea brand, has set up a 40-compartment locker in one of its brick-and-mortar stores, giving clients the option of skipping the line while picking up their orders placed online36Kr reported on Tuesday.

Heytea, which originated in 2012 from Jiangmen, a small city in South China’s Guangdong province, has become a phenomenon in the tea industry, wooing young consumers who at times have queued for hours at the chains’ stores. This year, its founder Neo Nie was named as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Asia for reshaping China’s tea-drinking culture.

Heytea’s boom in popularity has been driven by investments from the likes of IDG, which provided capital for the chain to expand its network of stores across the country. The company has also developed a WeChat mini program called Heytea Go to facilitate online orders.

Heytea now operates 268 tea stores across China, including large locations like coffee shops and 45 convenience stores that share a name with its WeChat mini program, according to 36Kr.

Heytea told 36Kr that the new addition of beverage lockers is meant to improve consumer experience and to alleviate pressure on store employees. The company explained that consumers in the pilot area in Shenzhen already have the habit of ordering their drinks via the Heytea Go mini program.

Heytea has Longzhu Capital, a subsidiary of China’s on-demand service provider Meituan-Dianping, among its current investors. For weeks, there have been speculations that Tencent will invest in Heytea’s Series C round, which may take the company to unicorn status.

36Kr is KrASIA’s parent company.