Fill in the blank. Honey is to bees as ____________ is to Asians.
If you guessed bubble tea, you're 100% correct.
Bubble tea has been a trending topic in 2016, thanks to the opening of several major bubble tea chains across Edmonton. Coco, Quickly, Chatime, and now Gong Cha. Most are concentrated along Whyte Ave and/or in the downtown area. A couple of them have also laid claim to southside locations, which begs the question, will northside ever feel the love? (╥_╥)
I'm a bit indifferent when it comes to bubble tea (I don't hate it but I don't loooove it) so it hasn't been a priority of mine to hit up these spots. Regardless, I found myself at Gong Cha during an afternoon of exploring downtown with KN.
Founded in Taiwan in 2006, Gong Cha is an international bubble tea franchise that has proliferated into 1200 stores across 18 different countries. With three locations in Toronto and two locations in Vancouver already, Gong Cha is quickly taking over the Canadian market as well.
Just over a month old, their Edmonton shop is located downtown in the newly designated Ice District, sharing space with XO Bistro + Bar in the Ultima tower. When you walk into the shared entrance, immediately turn right and go up the flight of stairs to find Gong Cha.
It's extremely small quarters with only one bar table for four and a counter that fits up to seven stools. It's not ideal for hanging out or staying too long, so if that's what you're looking for, you're probably better off finding another bubble tea joint with a comfier set up.
The menu seems smaller in comparison to its competitors, but they still boast an impressive variety of drinks. Categories include their signature milk foam drinks, milk teas, creative mixes, smoothies, brewed teas, fresh milk, and coffee. Additional toppings can be added for a small fee, while customization options for sugar level (0%, 30%, 50%, 70%, 100%) and ice (regular, half, no ice) are available, and encouraged, to make a drink suited to your own taste. Drinks come in a standard medium size, but could be upsized to a large for $0.50 more.
I went for a medium QQ passion fruit green tea ($5.00) which included tapioca pearls and coconut jelly. When ordering, I didn't think to customize anything so the first sip was almost shocking. It was wayyyy too sweet and tasted like straight up sugar syrup. It fared a bit better after I mixed the drink around, but learn from my mistake and always request at least 50% sugar. 30% might even be enough.
KN went for my second choice, which was the matcha milk tea with red bean ($5.50), half ice. I had a sip and it tasted quite watery and diluted. The matcha flavour was really subtle and you had to be searching for it to know it was there.
|Cheers to a new year!|
I wasn't exactly impressed by what we sampled at Gong Cha but it's not so much their fault as it is with my inexperience with their menu. Thanks to its prime location, Gong Cha will no doubt be a popular grab and go spot for bubble tea. They even have a second location in the works (again on Whyte Ave...) which is slated to be open for spring of next year.
(And if you were wondering, yes, all of the customers were Asian.)