Gong Cha Tea
Gong Cha aims to change the way you enjoy your bubble tea. The brand-new flagship Canadian store of this humongously large international chain, located on the ground level of the modest Metro Square mall, is sating Torontonians' thirst with a combination of unique yogurt drinks, fruity teas, and moustache drinks.
No, that last one's not a typo. More than just a trendy November fashion statement, the moustache makes its appearance whenever you sip one of Gong Cha's signature drinks. A prime example is the milk foam wintermelon drink ($4.70). It looks like a clear beverage with a semi-thick layer of foam on top, and the trick is to NOT start off with a straw, but rather gulp the drink as you would drinking a glass of water, until the tip of your lips touch reaches past the foam and into the actual juice. A bit unusual? Don't worry. They actually provide instructions for you (I'm not joking).
The end result is supremely satisfying. Other than a majestic foam moustache that will adorn your philtrum (look it up, that's not a dirty word, I swear), the salty and rich foam unexpectedly blends really nicely with the clear and sweet fruity drink underneath. It achieves that rare and unexpected mixture of rich-yet-refreshing sensation that I personally have never experienced in a bubble tea cafĂŠ.
If you feel like sampling some strong-tasting fruit beverages, make sure to sample their yogurt drinks. The mango yogurt drink ($4.70) is undoubtedly one of the most "mango-y" things I've sampled in a long time, and while some may say that the taste can be a bit too pronounced, I personally welcome it - better than getting those bland powdered fruit milk teas at many other places, in my opinion. Gong Cha prides itself on only using real fruit purees, and boy, does it show.
The rest of their line-up is equally satisfying. The light lemon wintermelon drink with basil seeds ($4.70) hits the right spot when you're just looking for a quick thirst quencher. Also served with a gelatinous sweet jelly called ai-yu (literally translated as "love jade"), this is a perfect summer drink that won't bloat you up.
I've mentioned several toppings that come with the drinks above, but you can really mix and match whatever flavours and accoutrements your heart desires. While the staff would recommend certain pairings, you really are only bound by your imagination and creativity. You'll get the usual tapioca pearls and herbal jelly options, but why not add unique items like black sugar jelly, basil seeds, extra milk foam, or the mysteriously named but equally delicious 3JS pudding? These will cost you around 50-80 cents each, so it won't be much more than what a regular bubble tea shop will charge you for regular tapioca pearls.
Finally, don't forget that you can still get classic bubble tea offerings. Their taro milk tea ($4.70) is delicious and tastes (fortunately) different than what you'd normally get in a powder-based taro drink, while the basic milk tea ($4.20) with pearls also offers a soothing alternative for those with calmer palates, but with a nice Earl Grey tea base, giving it a slightly more distinct flavour. Just like all of the drinks in the newer bubble tea shops, you can customize the ice and sugar to your taste.
The shop itself looks suitably modern-chic, and wouldn't look out of place in a trendy mall in Asia. The interior is spacious, and there are plans on introducing touch screen TVs where you can check out what the popular drinks are, among many other interactive features. So the next time you're in the area, pop by and give Gong Cha a try. Its modern setting is a stark, yet interesting, contrast to the much more modest Metro Square Mall around it. And the beverages? They definitely give popular places like Chatime a run for their money. The whole experience is sure to bang your gong (I'm so sorry).