Tri-City: Gong Cha

T told me about a new pearl tea place in Fremont.  I'd definitely passed by it before, but I never bothered to check it out.  Judging by the line we found when we arrived, I'd been missing out:

There's not much space inside, which explains the line out the door:

There are a few tables and a counter, but with so many people packed inside waiting for their orders, it's smarter to take your drinks to go...or snag a table outside.

The drink selection at Gong Cha isn't as extensive as, say, Tapioca Express or Quickly.  Since it was my first time, I ordered straight off the most popular list.

For my parents, I got the lemon winter melon tea with basil seeds ($4 for a large) and the QQ passionfruit green tea ($4.25 for a large):

Since there was a special going on that day and tapioca pearls were free, I added them to every drink.  Well, I tried to add them to the QQ passionfruit green tea, only to be told that they're already included.  Well then.

I was most curious about the lemon winter melon tea because that just seemed like the weirdest flavor combination to me.  Winter melon tea is quite distinctive.  If you've had it before you know what I mean.  I adore that stuff.  Adding lemon to it almost seemed blasphemous to me.  I stole a sip (before I handed it to my father, but he doesn't have to know that) and while it wasn't exactly nasty, I still prefer my winter melon tea unadulterated.

What Gong Cha is really known for, and what distinguishes it from all the other pearl tea joints in town, is its mustache series.  The "mustache" refers to the thick milk foam that sits at the top of each cup.  I got the large milk foam black tea ($3.75) while T got the milk foam oolong tea ($3.75):

T waited until after we'd already placed our order and our drinks were prepared to ask one of the guys behind the counter what milk foam is.  Taken slightly aback, the guy told us that milk foam is made of fresh milk and...Gong Cha's secret ingredient.

Gee, thanks.

He also told us that we should follow the instructions on top of our cups to get the ultimate mustache experience:

Totally game, T and I gave it a try.

First, we sipped our tea through the milk foam without a straw.  Or at least we tried to.  The milk foam was so thick that all we got was a mouthful of milk foam.  It tasted like softened butter.  Slightly salty and very, very rich.  If you love butter, this may be your thing.  It's not mine.

Slurping the tea and some milk foam through the straw was much better, though the butter feeling remained.

The third way was by far the best.  Once the milk foam is mixed into the tea, the resulting mixture is both sweet and salty and quite enjoyable.  Except for the little floating pieces of milk foam that don't dissolve all the way.

Don't get me wrong, I was actually quite impressed with Gong Cha.  It's different and I respect that.  It's not often that you come across a pearl tea shop that offers something new.  You also get to tweak your drink to your own tastes.  Like most pearl tea places in Taiwan, Gong Cha allows you to tailor how much sugar and ice you want.

Most importantly, their tea base is quite solid.  I went back later to get the black tea by itself and I enjoyed that immensely.  I judge all pearl tea joints by their black tea.  If the black tea is bad, no amount of milk or sugar will save it.

I'm too cheap to go to Gong Cha often (it's kind of on the expensive side), but I wouldn't mind going once in a while.  I think everyone should go at least once.  Just to try a mustache.  Heh.

Gong Cha
46827 Warm Springs Blvd #101
Fremont, CA 94539
(510) 445-1828


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