On the bustling streets of Singapore, where the tropical heat is a constant companion, the ION Orchard shopping centre stands as a beacon of modern luxury. Here, amidst the glittering array of high-end boutiques, a different kind of luxury is drawing crowds. Patrons, both local and international, queue patiently for what has become a signature Singaporean experience — indulging in a cup of exquisite coffee from Bacha Coffee.
Unlike a conventional café, Bacha Coffee offers a decadent affair, pairing the everyday ritual of coffee drinking with an opulent setting. This brand, although a newcomer with less than half a decade under its belt, has swiftly cemented its place in the post-pandemic era of Singapore. Its flourish is evident in prestigious locations like the iconic ION Orchard, where its store emanates a vibrant mix of orange, blue, and gold, promising not just a beverage but an experience.
The masterminds behind this sensation, Taha Bouqdib and Maranda Barnes, are no strangers to the concept of ‘affordable luxury’. The duo, having previously transformed their sister brand TWG Tea into a symbol of status in Asia, continue to thrive on the notion that tea and coffee are essentials for many — presenting an everyday necessity in an extraordinary way.
The strategic positioning of Singapore, with its burgeoning disposable income and central role in tea and coffee supply chains, provides an advantageous backdrop for the entrepreneurs. Moreover, the absence of import duties on tea and coffee bolsters the island state’s appeal as the ideal headquarters for their global ambitions.
Over the past 15 years, Bouqdib and Barnes have steadily expanded their retail footprint, which now spans over 20 countries. This growth has been supported by significant investments from heavyweight partners like Ron Sim, the Singapore tycoon behind Osim massage chairs. In January 2022, their holding company V3 Gourmet committed to a US$100 million investment across TWG, Bacha, and other brands over a three-year span. Notably, during the pandemic, they even ventured to invest over US$10 million in a Bacha Coffee outlet at Singapore’s then-quiet Changi airport.
Their gamble has started to bear fruit. In 2022, TWG Tea swung back into profitability after a challenging previous year, and although precise figures weren’t disclosed, Bacha Coffee also reported profits, narrowing its losses significantly from the year before.
The narrative and aesthetics of both TWG Tea and Bacha Coffee are meticulously crafted. TWG Tea’s outlets, with their Victorian decor and canisters stamped with the year 1837, evoke the heritage of Singapore’s Chamber of Commerce established that year. Bacha Coffee, with its own storied branding, ties its roots to Morocco’s Dar el Bacha palace, constructed in 1910 and known for its historic coffee house.
These brands have been woven into a narrative that connects them with a grandeur of bygone eras, resonating with customers who eagerly spend on premium coffee sets and exclusive teas, seeking to capture and share the moment on social media.
The founders, aware of the misconceptions regarding TWG’s founding year, have decided to remove the year 1837 from its packaging to ensure clearer communication. Their efforts reflect a dedication to authenticity as they continue to build upon the brand’s image.
TWG and Bacha have faced their share of legal challenges, from trademark disputes with Bouqdib’s former employer, Mariage Frères, to a court case with Tsit Wing (Hong Kong), a tea wholesaler established in 1932. Yet, these hurdles have not hindered their progress; instead, they serve as testament to the trials of building a global brand.
Today, the brands function with distinct identities, operating from separate floors in their Singapore headquarters, each with its own team and training methods — TWG, reserved and Bacha, vibrant with games.
Looking to the future, Bouqdib and Barnes are not resting on their laurels. TWG boasts over 100 locations worldwide, while Bacha is making inroads in markets like Hong Kong and the Middle East. As they consider further avenues for growth, including potential public offerings, the vision remains clear: to continue building a legacy that will last.