The awards winners at the ceremony for the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction 2022, held on June 24, 2022 in Edmonton. (Photo contributed)

The awards winners at the ceremony for the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction 2022, held on June 24, 2022 in Edmonton. (Photo contributed)

Red Deer bubble tea cafe brings home provincial award

Bestea Chill Out Cafe wins Young Entrepreneur award

When customers visit Bestea Chill Out Cafe, they are always welcomed with a cheery — Hello Bestea!

Or is it — Hello Bestie?

Actually, it’s both.

Owner Kristina Mejica said not only does the cafe serve quality bubble tea (best tea), but her customers are also greeted like treasured friends (besties).

“We want to treat them like we’re best friends,” said Mejica about her shop in downtown Red Deer.

It’s that customer service, and attention to bubble tea ingredients, that helped the cafe gain a loyal following and win the Young Entrepreneur category of the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction 2022, presented by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.

Related:

Red Deer’s downtown has gained about 50 new businesses in the past year, says DBA

Mejica and her husband Mel Cruz, who just opened the business in January 2021, received their provincial award at the ceremony held last Friday in Edmonton.

Mejica said getting the award still feels surreal, not to mention representing Red Deer and being part of a group with such experienced business owners.

“We were kind of like the neophyte at that event,” said the 31-year-old.

Bestea was also nominated in the newcomer entrepreneur category, and Cook With Meg, of Red Deer, was a nominee in the small business category.

A total of 273 businesses were nominated in 14 categories for the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction, which were narrowed down to 52 finalists.

Both Bestea and Cook with Meg were winners at the 2021 Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Awards.

Related:

Red Deer business a finalist for Alberta small business award

Scott Robinson, CEO with Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, said more people are starting to view Red Deer as a place where they can start their business and be successful.

“We’re reaching that critical mass in terms of size, and resources to support those businesses, so I think it is a good environment in Red Deer, and I think we’re going to see a lot more different, new, fresh ideas come to Red Deer for sure,” Robinson said.

He said Bestea shone because their product is different, as well as their business model, by bringing their product in directly from Asia, which is not common.

“They understand what the bubble tea environment is like from Asia and they’re bringing that unique experience to Red Deer which is really what set them apart from other nominees in their category.”

Mejica said is grateful to the chamber, and her central Alberta customers, for supporting her shop that all started when she asked — what if?

Mejica and her husband moved from Grande Prairie to open her shop in Red Deer where there were no bubble tea shops yet.

“We love bubble tea. When I opened, I introduced all the good flavours we tried back home and in all our travels, and we added our own blends,” said Mejica who immigrated from the Philippines.

She said the menu includes a variety of options — gluten-free, dairy-free, diet, and fresh fruit ingredients — to introduce more people to bubble tea. Currently there are about 7,000 regular customers who are earning points with Bestea’s loyalty program.

Mejica said there was a lot to learn as a young entrepreneur, but for people who want to start their own business, it all comes down to what they believe is possible.

“If they have an idea, and if they know it’s profitable, then go for it. It always starts with what if?

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Bestea Chill Out Cafe received the Young Entrepreneur award at the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction 2022, held on June 24, 2022. (Photo contributed)

Bestea Chill Out Cafe received the Young Entrepreneur award at the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction 2022, held on June 24, 2022. (Photo contributed)