Here at foodiePrints, we are always on the lookout for Ottawa’s best bubble tea house. Thus far, Don and I have been to the two locations of Bubblelicity (Chinatown and ByWard Market), the Nihao Tea House (now defunct on Holland Avenue), and Maple Valley (also in the ByWard Market). Since the summer, we have been eagerly awaiting for Tea Shop 168 to open on Wellington Street W. (1356). In business since 1996, Tea Shop 168 is a Toronto-based chain that has over a dozen locations, mainly in Markham and Scarborough.
After months of renovations, Tea Shop 168 finally opened its doors last Saturday (November 28, 2009). To celebrate, everything on the menu was 50% off the entire weekend. This week, all purchases are discounted 10%. Starting next week, lunch will be offered and the menu will include lots of Taiwanese-style snacks, such as fish balls, won ton dumplings, toast, etc.
With the majority of our errands run, we decided to give the newly opened bubble tea house a try that Saturday evening. Upon walking into the cream and yellow coloured house that was previously a hair salon, we were enthusiastically greeted by a young Mandarin-speaking woman (who happened to be the owner), her staff, and several of her friends. Playing was Japanese pop music from the early 2000s, a greatest hits mix of Ayumi Hamasaki.
Inside, there were two tall glass bistro-style tables able to sit groups of three and tall gray metal stools lining a bar set against a large bay window. On the other side of the room was another long counter with menus, Chinese and Japanese fashion and gossip magazine, and a cute brown miniature shopping cart for tips beside the cash register. Behind the counter was an ice maker, an induction burner, a rice cooker (for cooking the tapioca pearls), two commercial grade blendesr, and rows of jars filled with colourful powders, each a different flavour.
After consulting the menu, I decided to order my usual, a regular size lychee bubble slush with lychee jelly pieces. Don ordered a black tea taro flavoured milk tea with pearls. All drinks, eat-in or take-out, are served in a plastic Tea Shop 168 cup, either sealed with plastic or with a lid.
My lychee slush was surprisingly pleasant. It was not overly sweet, nor did it take on a yellowish colour from too much syrup. When bubble slushes take on a colour, it is often too concentrated. I did not find any chunks of ice and there was just the right amount of jelly pieces.
When ordering tea-based drinks, you can choose to have it served hot or cold. In this case, Don requested his to be cold. However, when the server handed him his drink, I was rather surprised it was just slightly room temperature, warm for bubble tea. The taro milk tea was slightly powdery and the tapioca pearls too soft.
Although the drinks were a bit of a hit-and-miss, Tea Shop 168 is certainly worth checking out. The menu offers a variety of teas and slushes. While the staff are still in training and are experiencing a bit of trouble finding the requested powder (suggestion: organize it in alphabetical order!), the preparation of each drink is impressive. Everything is carefully measured and then shaken in a cocktail shaker.
That evening, each drink cost only $2.10 (regular price: $4.19) for a total of $7.11, tax included.
Thus far, foodiePrints’ ranking of the top tea houses in Ottawa are as followed:
Stay tune as foodiePrints will be revealing its favourite bubble tea shop very soon!
Tea Shop 168
1356 Wellington Street