Following on from my success at Presotea, I decided to visit another Taiwanese bubble tea stronghold, Gong Cha. This brand launched in Taiwan in the same year (2006) but has grown even more rapidly than its competitor, expanding into more than 1500 stores across Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, The Philippines, Cambodia, Korea, America, Macau, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia.
The Haymarket store I visited is a hole-in-the-wall across from Market City. The tiny counter accommodates four people, so there’s pretty much always a queue extending onto the footpath of the busy corner. Staff are taciturn and intent upon the business of dispensing bubble tea. They don’t offer much by way of suggestions, so you’ll be navigating your choice of beverage, along with the appropriate level of sugar and ice, from their extensive menu alone.
Leaving aside their famous cheese-tea (tea topped with a layer of frothy, whipped cheese and milk) for a day where the temperature was more appropriate for dairy, I hit up two different beverages. From the brewed tea range, I try Wintermelon Alisan Tea ($5), a green oolong tea from Taiwan. It's mellow and light-bodied with a gentle roasted flavour. I take it at standard sweetness and coolness (refers to the amount of ice), which seem about right for this beverage, especially against the wintermelon which adds a fresh sugar cane like flavour. It's cooling and refreshing without losing the tea flavour.
After the satisfying pop of my straw piercing the seal, the Passionfruit Green Tea ($5.20) burns me with way too much sweetness, despite me ordering it at half sweetness. I should have remembered that passionfruit tends to be over-sweet, and cut out the sugar entirely. Tea seems lost in this beverage, and overall across both drinks, which is perhaps the key difference between bubble teas made on tea that's brewed every four hours versus Presotea’s brewed at the time teas made using individual teabags.
Shop 7, 683-689 George Street, Sydney