xoxo tea toronto

XOXO Tea

XOXO Tea is the first Vietnamese teahouse in Toronto to offer free refills and all-you-can-drink toppings in their largely sugar-free invigorating drinks.

Going to school in Saigon in the early 2000s, co-founder Harry Ho fondly remembers seeing his peers in snaking lineups at humble bubble tea carts run by chatty aunties and uncles, trying to order a cup filled to the brim with all possible toppings. 

xoxo tea torontoTo him, this familiar sight is the perfect example of Vietnam's thriving sidewalk culture that extends well beyond street foods — a core childhood memory he'd carry to Canada. In his years as a design student in Toronto, Ho was also working part-time at bubble tea shops alongside his partner Iris Tran.

So, when a business opportunity struck, the pair decided to continue committing to what they knew best — while also bringing a distinctive taste of home to Toronto. That's how XOXO Tea officially came to be, opening its doors in March.

xoxo tea torontoThe ordering process starts with choosing a cup size: the regular is 21 oz. (starts at $5.99) while the large is a whopping 32 oz. (starts at $6.99).

xoxo tea torontoNext, customers can choose an a la carte option of adding toppings by the scoop at $1 per scoop.

Most, however, come here for XOXO's signature all-you-can-drink option. Priced at $3.99, you can fill your cup with as many toppings as you desire. This option also includes a  free tea refill within 30 minutes of purchase.

xoxo tea torontoHo tells blogTO that at first, XOXO used to do refills of the toppings rather than the tea, but has recently incorporated customer feedback to switch things around.

I agree with this decision: It's nice to know I can fill my cup with some more tea if needed to wash down the generous heaps of toppings that it comes with. 

xoxo tea torontoXOXO makes their tea in large batches early each day, which ensures fresh yet consistent flavours in every cup sold. This also helps save time from constant preparation given the free refill model.

xoxo tea torontoThe signature XOXO milk tea features a black tea base that's not for the weak. If you'd like to go lighter on the caffeine, fragrant brown rice milk tea is a great choice, which I'm told has a high conversion rate among first-timers.

xoxo tea torontoAnd, a must-try for fruit tea lovers would be the bestselling lemongrass orange peach tea. It's a staple one can find all across 63 provinces of Vietnam.

xoxo tea torontoWith over 70 colourful toppings available, XOXO has a way of enticing you to come back for more.

Typical tapioca and jelly are upgraded to the next level and come in 20 different fruit flavours, such as green apple and mango. They even serve innovative fresh taro and cheese balls.

There are also roughly 25 types of funky popping bobas that are made to melt in your mouth. 

xoxo tea torontoWhat I found most noteworthy was their housemade collection of authentic Vietnamese options which Ho guarantees are exclusive to the store: nutty palm seeds, syrupy seedless lychee, healthy purple rice, jello-wrapped tropical fruit pieces, silky flan and khúc bạch (Vietnamese panna cotta).

xoxo tea torontoTo top it all off, you can even add a floating foam layer to your drink.

I was intrigued by the burned egg cream, which is a torched whipped yolk mix that resembles a creme brulee. 

xoxo tea torontoWhile many of these toppings are complete novelties to the average Western taste bud, Ho is happy to give recommendations. What excites Ho most is when he then sees customers completely swayed to make non-standard choices on their next visit. 

"What we're offering is more than just a cup of tea like many may think," Ho says. "This combination of multiple toppings at once. It makes a whole dessert."

xoxo tea toronto"We're hoping to present ourselves as a new Vietnamese contender in a space currently dominated by Chinese and Taiwanese brands because more people should know how bold and different high-class Vietnamese tea can be."

Considering the potentially massive amount of bubble tea toppings packed in each cup, XOXO has chosen to serve a drink that incorporates relatively natural ingredients and will make a beverage without any added sugar whenever possible. When they do add a sweetener, they use honey or condensed milk. 

xoxo tea torontoI found the refreshing drinks skewed towards the less sweet side, which is also why their sugar level is not customizable like many other tea places. In fact, at least three choices on the menu are entirely sugar-free. 

In preparation for summer, the shop is planning to roll out a new slushie tea series.

Ho shares that he hopes by this time next year to have a second or third location in Toronto. 

storefrontFor now, you can keep sharing the love for Vietnamese dessert at 393 Spadina Ave. Until next time, XOXO.

Photos by

Fareen Karim


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