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Eat & Drink

The top 5 Hong Kong milk tea in Toronto

Posted by Darren "DKLo" Susilo / November 5, 2012

Hong Kong Milk TeaToronto has some of the best milk tea outside of Hong Kong. For those unfamiliar, milk tea is a fixture of Canto-Western (Hong Kong-style Western) cuisine. The milky beverage, made from a combination of black tea (and sometimes different kinds of teas), and evaporated/condensed milk using a discoloured filter that is often referred to as a pantyhose, is such an integral part of the Hong Kong coffee shop experience that it's really difficult (impossible, really) to imagine not finding it in any respectable Hong Kong cafe.

Whereas one of my previous posts was focused on where to find quality Hong-Kong Western food in Toronto, this one will focus on the drink itself. It is such a popular beverage that many purists will often tolerate a mediocre cha chaan teng experience if they enjoy the tea, and it usually comes down to very minute details which distinguish one milk tea from another, considering they all use very similar ingredients, with mostly the technique, and the timing of the preparation that are distinct.

To keep things short and sweet, I've decided to just focus on where I like to have my milk tea, as opposed to overly dissecting the "why's" of it. And yes, I've definitely noticed a heavy suburban bent. I've tried many milk teas in downtown Toronto, and they're just too "flat" in my opinion.

Here are my top 5 places to drink Hong Kong milk tea in Toronto.

Marathon Donuts and Coffee Shop (3300 Midland Ave)
This small, old-fashioned stall shot to superstardom a few months ago when its owner won the International Milk Tea competition in Hong Kong (no, seriously, there are such things), beating out more illustrious competitors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China while upholding the honour of Scarborough. In other words, this is actually (supposedly) the best Hong Kong milk tea in the world. I'm going to let that sink in for a second. The tea served here is full-bodied, with a smooth texture that's not too overpowering. It's not too sweet either (which would've been my personal preference, but I'm no judge) and the balance of flavours feels just right. While it is undoubtedly very good tea, I personally don't think it quite lives up to its hype. However, this place is definitely worth a visit, even if it's just to try out the drink that put Midland and Finch (for a time at least) in the international culinary world's limelight.

Ming's Noodle Cafe (3447 Kennedy Rd)
Another Scarborough hidden gem of sorts, this place serves more of a comprehensive Hong Kong meal than many other cha chaan tengs, with dishes such as tenderloin steak with rice, and the delicious baked pork chop (with rice again, of course). The milk tea here has a sharper/stronger taste than Marathon's, which is actually more to my liking. It's more defined in taste and less smooth, but still one of the best ones I've had. Bonus points for having lots of cheap, comfort Canto-Western dishes surrounding me as I sip my tea Gangnam-style. This place does get really loud and busy during mealtimes, as it's very popular with locals, though in my experience, the staff seems to handle these crowds very quickly and efficiently.

Fuji Mountain Bakery (350 Highway 7 East Unit 110)
Serving oodles of freshly baked Chinese buns and pastries, this place offers a simple Hong Kong milk tea that is a hit with many, including myself. The abundance of baked goods that surround you, and are practically asking to be bought as a companion to the tea, are always a treat, if you can excuse the rather no-frills look of the place. Then again, as there's no real seating inside, perhaps its utilitarian atmosphere serves its purpose of 'in-n-out' perfectly. Or maybe that's just my custard bun whispering at me.

Metro Square Cafe Restaurant (3636 Steeles E Avenue)
Located in the Chinese food wonderland of Metro Square and bearing the same unimaginative name as the mall itself, this rather spacious cafe provides good milk tea to go with their rather large assortment of offerings. The best part is that they feature all-day breakfasts, with service that's efficient without being curt. Aside from their rather thick milk tea (which is served with almost all of their dishes), they also offer excellent egg sandwiches. The combination of fluffy egg and smooth creamy tea is definitely one to try out. Keep in mind that the place's ambience is nothing to really write home about, but then again most cha chaan tengs aren't either.

Leslie Cafe (149 Ravel Road)
The first thing you'll notice about this rather well-hidden cafe is that its clean, bright, and relatively modern interior makes it look like the Ritz-Carlton of all cha chaan tengs (seriously, you'd think there was a hidden contractual agreement that most Hong Kong cafes have to be set in dreary '80s interior). The food on offer is also quite diverse, with an assortment of pork chops, steaks, and sandwiches to try, while the milk tea is flavourful and satisfying. I'll admit that I may think that the tea tastes even better because of how much of a pleasant upgrade this place is visually, and its location across from a Chinese supermarket is another bonus point--so you can immediately get the ingredients to try to replicate your milk tea experience at home (a futile attempt, I may add).

Posted by Darren "DKLo" Susilo. He hangs out on the twitter and his own mansion. Photo by Javin Lau.

Discussion

27 Comments

toothpaste / November 5, 2012 at 09:39 am
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This reminds me of that time we made fun of this site and called it BlogMarkham. It was hilarious!
the lemur / November 5, 2012 at 09:51 am
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So basically you can't get a decent milk tea anywhere south of Finch?
hank / November 5, 2012 at 10:09 am
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I wish there was one actually in Toronto
Jen / November 5, 2012 at 10:25 am
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All the best Chinese food is in Markham.
Sam / November 5, 2012 at 10:33 am
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Ming's and Marathon are still in Toronto, although close to Markham. Of course if you're willing to make the trip to Pacific Mall, then those stops are definitely close by.
Ken / November 5, 2012 at 10:42 am
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There's two places in Chinatown (Spadina) with decent HK tea -- nowhere near as good as Marathon though. One is just north of Baldwin on the East side, small take-out place that mostly sells bubble tea and the baked puff-things. House of Gourmet on Spadina is also "ok". Those are usually my go-tos when I'm downtown and need a cup of liquid gold.
DKLo / November 5, 2012 at 10:48 am
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Leslie Cafe is also still in Toronto, as you can get to it from Leslie Subway + one bus trip north to Finch station.
Sophia / November 5, 2012 at 10:49 am
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I think I'd rather have "flat" tea that doesn't involve going somewhere called "Milliken."

That said - I appreciate the author crossing the Styx to do a thorough sampling.
Ken / November 5, 2012 at 10:59 am
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Also, note that even though Marathon won the World Gold Tea trophy, they did so using a much stronger, unique blend, which they don't serve in their stores (which involves oil-frying the leaves, I believe). That being said, it's still currently my favourite for having a rich strong tea, smooth mouthfeel, but without the sharp acrid notes of aftertaste.
DKLo replying to a comment from DKLo / November 5, 2012 at 11:00 am
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Sorry, edit, I meant one bus trip north to Finch intersection with Leslie.
the lemur replying to a comment from Ken / November 5, 2012 at 11:04 am
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Place north of Baldwin - do you mean Ding Dong?

House of Gourmet is on Dundas though.
Ken / November 5, 2012 at 11:04 am
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If you're throwing Markham/Richmond Hill in the mix, I would add Patisserie Gateau at First Markham Place and Les Chateaux Bakery at Time Square to the list. If you're at Les Chateaux Bakery, their palmiers are also very very good. Patisserie Gateau's baked goods are pretty poor though. Oh, ABC Bakery (Victoria Park north of McNicoll) does a pretty good HK Tea as well, especially since you can also get top notch fresh-baked egg tarts from there.
Ken replying to a comment from the lemur / November 5, 2012 at 11:07 am
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lemur, thanks for the correction on House of Gourmet -- yes, that's on Dundas.

as for place North of Baldwin, it's not Ding Dong Pastries -- it's not a bakery at all. They make/sell Gei Dan Jai ้›ž่›‹ไป” (Hong Kong-style waffle-like street snack) at a stall outside, and you walk in for bubble tea and HK tea. Can't speak for their Gei Dan Jei or Bubble Tea (bleh), but HK tea will do in a pinch.
Ken replying to a comment from the lemur / November 5, 2012 at 11:15 am
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@lemur, drop me a note w your email addr, next time I'm at the place with the Gei Dan Jei, I'll take a note of the exact address and let you know.
eric / November 5, 2012 at 11:46 am
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Leslie cafe is crap now. One of the best is Great Well at Sheppard and Midland. Its a fast food place located in the foodcourt of a strip mall but can totally be a cafe if the owners wanted to.
Ken replying to a comment from eric / November 5, 2012 at 12:23 pm
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What other stores are in the strip mall? There's a bunch at Sheppard/Midland. Thanks!
Marx / November 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm
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I love how BlogTO is broadening its focus outwards from the downtown core. It's easy to do a topic that only looks at things south of Bloor, east of Ossington, and West of Broadview. But, that's not all of what Toronto is. Communities are lot more distinct outside those borders. Good job.
raymes / November 5, 2012 at 02:47 pm
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mmmmmmmilk tea!!!
Hau / November 5, 2012 at 04:45 pm
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Leslie Cafe is crap, they changed owners and jacked up the price of everything. I'm surprised how it even made this list. Their "milk tea" is like drinking milk, there's no tea in it.

Don't go!
Melissa / November 5, 2012 at 11:01 pm
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Sometimes it's best to have a true foodie pay attention to the small nuances in a food/drink and share the info with the rest of us. Thanks!
Rachel / November 5, 2012 at 11:59 pm
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I don't think Leslie Cafe is exceptional, but don't get me wrong, their HK style milk is gooood... they did pick themselves back up after going thru owner transition during the summer.

If you're looking for some good milk tea, I recommend checking out Golden Phoenix's (3 locations) unique "iceless" cold milk tea. Located on Woodbine, Bayview, and Mccowan. One of the best ones I've had is at Blue Ocean Cafe, located in Peachtree plaza at Kennedy/Hwy 7. These 2 are my personal favourites.
Jamie / November 6, 2012 at 11:18 am
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There is a good place in Chinatown bakery... I forgot the name but its in the plaza on Spadina and its beside the HSBC
Ken replying to a comment from Jamie / November 6, 2012 at 03:02 pm
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Are you thinking about Furama? I had their HK tea about 2 years ago, and it tasted of sugar and water .. Have they fixed their HK tea since?
the lemur replying to a comment from Ken / December 3, 2012 at 10:08 am
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Are you talking about Mashion (I think that's what it's called)? I found their milk tea wasn't strong enough.
NS / December 12, 2012 at 04:26 pm
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Consider Blue Ocean Cafe at hwy 7/Kennedy, as Rachel mentioned above. You don't even need to add sugar to the milk tea to enjoy it. You can smell the tea as you walk in. For a while, I thought they won the HK contest.
Canadienne / December 13, 2012 at 10:51 am
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How is New City at Peachtree Centre at Highway 7 and Kennedy not on this list? The place has incredibly authentic Hong Kong milk tea (some say more authentic than certain places in HK!) and is an institution to many Hong Konger-Canadians living in the GTA.
Jyun Oki replying to a comment from NS / January 24, 2013 at 10:34 am
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I agree with NS and Canadienne. New City and Blue Ocean both have incredible smooth and rich HK teas and should be on that list too. However there is a place that I recently discovered and I feel serves the one of the best. I think it's called Honey Tea HK and it's in a strip mall at 663 Silver Star Blvd. in Scarborough. It's located in a cafeteria of strictly chinese food vendors. You know the ones that have a million colourful paper signs detailing their menu. I needed a tea fix so I got one from there and wow, it was really spectacular. The best that I've tasted so far (sorry Marathon). I'm definitely going back.

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