Milk tea – nai cha in whichever Chinese dialect – has become quite the popular thirst quencher in these parts, though its fame has been slow in coming.
Spurred initially by the bubble shake (boba nai cha) craze in the late 1990s, it’s taken roughly fifteen years for proper chilled milk tea shops to latch onto the culinary psyche of urban Filipinos.
The wait was certainly worth it as we, the drinking public, are now spoiled for choice when it comes to milky tea. Quickly is, of course, the mall-goer’s default choice. Then Kozui, Tokyo Bubble Tea Place, and Serenitea took it all upmarket and threw in a whole new menu based on Japanese kissaten offerings or the tamer forms of Taiwanese street nosh. More recently, Taiwanese players Chatime and Happy Lemon have set up shop in the country, offering such quirky sippers as mousse floats and green tea with cheese and rock salt.
And now, Gong Cha is here, too.
Another Taiwanese brand, Gong Cha’s image is a bit different in the sense that it looks more bespoke, looks more mature and formal. The signage features the brand’s chop (calligraphy stamp) and white serif letters on a staid maroon background.
I daresay it looks more appealing to thirty-odds like me than, say, a much younger crowd of indiscriminate tea-swillers. Which, to me, is good. Call me a cranky ol’ crone, but I enjoy my tea better without the inane yapping of younger kids in seriously bad English, really badly-delivered cussing, or the grating gay lingo that seems to be common even among straight boys. But, I digress… Damn it, I’m here for the tea!
And what tea! I ordered one of the house specials: the Gong Cha Milk Green Tea. It’s different from the usual milk teas in the sense that the milk isn’t mixed into the tea. Instead, a cream-based mousse floats on top of the chilled tea. The concept, I believe, is the same as for the mousse floats and cheese-topped teas of the competition.
The tea itself is amazing; you can tell that it isn’t any run-of-the-mill supermarket tea-bag brew. It is heady, sensuously floral. Normally, the taste of green tea is muted when chilled, but this particular tumbler of tea tasted intense, like drinking a garden full of spring blossoms. You can actually detect hints of both jasmine and either cherry or almond blossom: that sweet, almost nectar-like note you only get from tea brewed from a proper loose-leaf blend.
Paired with the silky cream floating on top – and I will say this: they don’t skimp on the creamy mousse here unlike other teashops – it’s like having a most elegant tea-infused cheesecake in liquid form. The scant hint of salt used in the mousse actually intensifies the flavor of the tea as opposed to masking it. To get the maximum impact of this flavor combination, skip the straw and sip the drink directly from the tumbler.
Gong Cha currently has kiosks at the Mall of Asia and its most recent branch opened at Food Choices on the third floor of Glorietta 4. I wish they’d open one in southern suburbia, though. It’d be closer to home (though the Glorietta one is close to where I work); I’d seriously be all over it – and there’s the Earl Gray milk tea (milk blended into said tea) with pudding and extra cream to consider, too. ;D