As we all know, Gong Cha has opened a new store right in the heart of University – and this means we will start seeing more students holding Gong Cha cups to lectures now than Starbucks.
As much as I love my coffee, I also love my tea. If you don’t know what Gong Cha is, then you are truly missing out! Gong Cha is a widely popular bubble tea chain that was founded in Taiwan and has now branched out into many different countries, including New Zealand. After its launch in 2015, popularity soared for their chewy tapioca pearls and freshly brewed quality tea beverage that is earning its reputation. In New Zealand, they have now opened up nine stores nation-wide and are expected to expand to even more locations.
At Gong Cha, they have over 50 different flavours to choose from – as well as picking your choice of sugar and ice level (for cold drinks). There is also a hot drink option to select.
The bubble tea craze is growing, and becoming increasingly popular among students. We see many more stores opening, selling bubble tea in neatly decorated, Instagram-able cafes, which is absolutely irresistible (I’m guilty of this). There are even ‘make your own bubble tea’ stores out there! However, any amount of competition is no match for this bubble tea giant.
Before our campus store, I could justify not getting Gong Cha because it was “too far away” and I had to run to my next class. But now, their new campus location means dangerous accessibility and is more convenient than having to walk ALL THE WAY down to Lorne Street and being out of breath for my next class (that killer climb back).
With this new campus store, because it’s a small kiosk, there are limited options. There are no earl grey tea or oolong tea. There is only the Oolong Milk tea with Foam and the Oolong Milk tea with Herbal Jelly.
My all-time favourite drink has to be the Oolong Milk Tea with Herbal Jelly, with 70% sugar and 30% ice. I’ve always gone for my go-to drink, but I ought to try something new!
Now let’s put it to the test – what are some of the most popular flavours of Gong Cha among university students?
10. Lemon Wintermelon with Basil Seeds
This drink is one of a kind. It has a distinct refreshing sweetness from the wintermelon, but the basil seeds may not be for everyone. I personally found the seeds to be a bit off-putting. Some students absolutely love wintermelon drinks because when the wintermelon is cooked, it adds a caramel flavour to the drink. Another bonus is that it helps to detoxify the body as well!
Note: you can’t change the sugar levels on this drink!
“I don’t like the feeling of the seeds popping in your mouth”
9. Mango Green Tea [LIMITED TIME ONLY]
Creative Mix Series
An unexpected flavour drink that I would recommend y’all to try out is the Mango Green Tea. It goes great with Mango Pearls as it gives the drink a grittier yet bouncy texture. The sweetness of the mango really give your tastebuds the Owen Wilson ‘wow’ treatment. Wow. Unfortunately this drink isn’t available in the UoA store, but it’s worth the walk down to Lorne Street when your timetable allows.
“Chewing on the Mango Pearls is a whole new experience!”
8. Honey Lemon Drink
Personally, I would rate the Honey and Lemon Drink higher due to nostalgia because sipping that hot drink on a cold rainy day with a good book is honestly such an amazing feeling, but if you haven’t tried this drink out yet, get it hot when it’s absolutely pouring down. The journey you mouth goes on starts with the sweetness of the honey and ends with the light sour after-taste of the lemon.
“It’s like my ex, starts out sweet but it eventually left a sour taste in my mouth’
7. Milk Foam Green Tea
Gong Cha Signature Series
For my fellow brothers and sisters out there that are lactose-intolerant, my heart goes out to you. I love adding layering of milk foam on all of my drinks because taking that first sip of a hot drink with the initial taste of the cool milk foam gives me the strength to attend my 8ams. I personally love a green tea if I’ve hit town the previous night as there’s nothing like it to help battle the questionable choices I’ve made the night before.
“This goes well with pearls and egg pudding!”
6. Dirtea Brown Sugar
Fresh Milk Series
Surprisingly their Dirtea appears to be decently popular among students! This drink means a “dirty” version of brown sugar syrup drizzled on it. This is a recent addition to their drinks menu. You can customise it with or without tea, and it comes with their signature milk foam with oreo cookie crumble sprinkled on top.
“This one is a bit odd-tasting – I don’t think I’d buy it again”
5. Taro Milk Tea
Milk Tea Series
Although I’m not a huge fan of taro itself, the drink has got a distinct sweetness but also nutty taste. I initially didn’t quite like the taste but it grew on me! Most people would enjoy this drink with pearls or even red bean. The drink usually comes with taro cubes, but if you’re not a fan, you can get it without! But I do recommend giving it a go.
“Personally, I think this tastes way better than Cha Time”
4. Oolong Milk Tea
Signature Series, MIlk Tea Series, Brewed Tea Series and Fresh Milk Series
Personally, this one is my favourite. Originated in Taiwan, it has a sweet, flowery scent, with a buttery aroma and milky savour. It appears to be quite popular with their signature milk foam series or the fresh milk series. Nonetheless, oolong seems to be one of the top favourite drinks! The drink comes both hot and cold, and while the cold one is great, I prefer the hot option with milk foam on top.
“I love the sweetness of the tea, especially with the herbal jelly topping too”
3. Earl Grey Milk Tea with 3J
Milk Tea Series
Firstly, the 3J again means 3 different types of topping – pudding jelly, grass jelly and of course, the classic black pearls. Personally, I love drinking hot earl grey tea, but I’m not a fan of the tea alongside three different toppings. But if you love a strong earl grey tea, or are just feeling a little spontaneous, definitely give this drink a whirl!
“This one is still my fav drink of all time”
2. QQ Passionfruit Green Tea
Creative Mix Series
QQ Passionfruit Green Tea has two types of toppings – coconut jelly and black pearls. The QQ stands for the two different toppings. Our student experts say that the drink can either be sweet or sour – with sugar the drink will taste sweet, if without, then it will taste sour. The two toppings gives us extra texture and something to cheer on, while indulging the unique passionfruit and green tea.
“The passionfruit isn’t very subtle and it really makes its presence known”
1. Pearl Milk Tea
Milk Tea Series
Taking out the top spot, of course we have the ultimate favourite – the OG Pearl Milk Tea, that consists of beautifully-brewed black tea, fresh tapioca pearls and a big fat straw (preferably metal – let’s try to reduce our use of plastic-straws!). This is also very popular in the hot drinks too. What better than a hot original pearl milk tea on a cold winter’s day?
“It’s basically like going home after being away for so long”
“Can’t go wrong with pearl milk tea”
Looking at these drinks, it makes me want to try something new too! Our expert suggests when buying your drink, to get half sugar rather than the standard 100% sugar.
My co-writer, Brian and I had a wee chat with the Marketing director, Sheng Jian, and we found out that his top favourite is the original Pearl Milk Tea (obviously), Strawberry Milk Tea with Milk Foam and also the Passionfruit QQ Green Tea. He also recommends that new drinkers try out their signature milk foam series. Their milk foam is slightly different compared to other bubble tea stores. Gong Cha’s signature milk foam should be mixed well with the drink – they do not use cream cheese, and they also do not have cheese foam like many other stores do. I personally find the milk foam to be a nice touch because it adds a different texture to the tea.
With growing popularity towards adopting a more environmental approach, Gong Cha has plans to introduce paper straws, but are currently conducting tests for the paper straws to work with the cups (stabbing ability). There are also plans to introduce reusable Gong Cha merchandise cups – so make sure to keep an eye out for those!
For those of you that ended up reading the entire article, the winners from the Gongcha Facebook competition are Jenna McLachlan [Facebook] and Elisha Ng Lam @iamleeeeesha (Instagram), please message Craccum Magazine on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org to organise a time to collect your amazing prizes.