BY KAMDYN ROHER
The bubble tea phenomenon has taken over South Florida by storm, with new restaurants and cafes opening left and right. While they all carry the same general assortment of teas and milk teas with or without boba, some establishments really elevate the experience to the next level. That’s where Gong Cha Pembroke Pines comes in.
Established in 2006, Gong Cha opened its first American store in 2013. Since then, the franchise has expanded across the nation, opening stores in California, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and, most recently, Florida.
The restaurant offers a special experience, one that isn’t commonly seen in other similar eateries.
Having quite a large menu, Gong Cha is perfect for coffee and tea lovers along with people who might not like either. In order to create the perfect drink for everyone, there is a unique 5-step ordering process.
Step 1: Choose your drink
There are so many different drink options, it’s almost intimidating. Luckily, the menu divides the flavors into different categories, like milk teas, milk drinks, brown sugar drinks, yogurt drinks, coffee drinks and many more. There are classic flavors like strawberry and mango along with more interesting ones like wintermelon and red bean.
Step 2: Choose your size
Next, customers get to decide between a medium and large cup. Obviously, the large is a bit more expensive, ranging between 25 and 75 more cents than the medium. The large is not massive though, as it is more like a normal size one would get at any other tea spot.
Step 3: Choose your ice level
This step is super helpful and distinctive to Gong Cha. At other places like Starbucks and Dunkin, customers have to ask for more or less ice and for some, it can be quite embarrassing or awkward to ask the employee for a special request. Here, however, customers have the choice between regular, less, least and no ice. It is built directly into their personalized drink, which adds a delightful feature of choice and clarity.
Step 4: Choose your sugar level
Another option that makes the Gong Cha experience unique; customers can explicitly state the level of sweetness they want. Those with a massive sweet-tooth can opt for 100% sugar, while those who like their tea strong and unsweet can choose their no sugar option. For those who fall somewhere in between, they can have 70%, 50% or 30% of the usual amount of liquid sugar included in the standard drink. On the downside, Gong Cha does not currently offer any sweetener options like Splenda or Equal for those who are unable to consume sugar on this level like diabetics (but they can always choose the no sugar option).
Step 5: Choose your topping
The final and arguably most enjoyable step is deciding what delicious addition one would like to add to their already perfect drink. There are fourteen topping options, each costing either 50 or 75 cents. The classic black pearl boba was one of the best, as it was perfectly chewy with just the right hint of sweetness. And, they weren’t skimpy either! Almost every sip had some boba, and there were even some left over to chew on after the drink was finished.
While the menu offers a vast variety of excellent teas, one cannot forget about their bubble waffles. Fluffy and piping hot, it is clear that each waffle is made to order. While there is not as large of a selection as there is with the drinks, customers can decide between original, matcha, chocolate, pearl and brown sugar ginger waffles. These too can be topped with whatever the heart desires.
The actual storefront, located in Pembroke Pines, is quite small. However, it is decorated tastefully and simplistically. On the right wall there is a cute mural of two bears sporting Nikes and the Gong Cha logo. In the corner, there is a faux cherry tree with little notes strung on its leaves. Throughout the store there are plastic plants and little quotations. Overall, the decor was minimal and clean, yet aesthetically pleasing and comforting at the same time.
There are about three tables in the restaurant itself, with a couple outside. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there is no indoor dining at this time, but the outdoor seats are fair game.
While the menu offers a vast variety of excellent teas, one cannot forget about their bubble waffles.
The staff was friendly enough and willing to give some advice on what drink to choose. However, they failed to mention the no in-dining policy for quite some time, and promptly asked us to go outside when they remembered our existence. The drink and waffle were not ready at the same time, but all was forgiven when the steamy, golden dessert came out a few minutes later. Be warned! It was very hot, and no matter how tempting, it is wise to wait for it to cool down a bit before diving in.
The prices were not ostentatious. Although, like all boba tea restaurants, it was not the cheapest. For reference, a large brown sugar coffee tea with boba and a brown sugar ginger waffle came out to be around $11. But, arguably, the flavor makes the price worth it.
All in all, the Gong Cha experience in Pembroke Pines was very pleasant. The massive menu ensures that all customers are able to buy a drink that is specially curated to their palette. The drinks and food items seemed to be high quality and made-to-order, which is always a plus.
- Huge menu.
- Delicious teas and bubble waffles.
- Each item can be personalized to each individual.
- Food comes out fresh and hot.
- No dining-in at the moment.
- No sugar-free sweetener options.
- Store is quite small (so no large groups).
- Servings are not very large .
Photo by Kamdyn Roher