Robot invasion? Luckin rival Cotti to bring robotics into new coffee and tea stores

Just before the New Year, coffee chain Cotti announced its latest strategy involving coffee-making robots. At the same time, Cotti also announced the anticipated launch of its tea brand – Tea Cat. The first Tea Cat location will open in January at the Hopson One Mall in Beijing. The robots will include supervised and unsupervised varieties for ingredients, tea and coffee-making, as well as serving. Current images mostly feature robot arms for tea and coffee making.

Cotti was founded in 2022 by Luckin Coffee co-founder Lu Zhengyao with former Luckin executives. The brand went through a phase of aggressive expansion in 2023. With 16 stores opened abroad in a year, its total number of stores has reached 7,000. Not only did Cotti price match Luckin with its 9.9 RMB (1.40 USD) sales events, but it also engaged in several collaborations with high-profile IPs like the mobile game Honor of Kings, anime Spy x Family and the classic TV series Empresses in the Palace. Cotti’s most recent move is recruiting actor and singer Wang Yibo as its brand ambassador on 5 January.

Journalists have visited Cotti locations but did not see any robots. Cotti responded to enquiries that the robots will only be equipped at newly opened shops including Tea Cat locations. However, the company did not respond to whether the franchisees would bear the cost of the robots.

Although coffee-making robots are nothing new, as Luckin introduced robot arms to a NASA-themed store in Beijing back in 2019, they were mostly gimmicky and limited to themed stores due to cost issues. Automated milk tea machines, on the other hand, are more widely adapted in the industry. If Cotti’s new strategy succeeds, it would be the first scalable example of robotic application in a tea or coffee chain in the world. Although it is too early to predict the outcome of Cotti’s automation effort, with all Tea Cat locations planned to be equipped with robots, Cotti certainly means business with its robotisation.


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