A local bubble tea shop competes against the chains
By Breanna Mroczek | April 18, 2022
If you find yourself in the mood for bubble tea in Edmonton, you likely don’t have to go very far to satisfy the craving. Chains including The Alley, Dream Tea and Xing Fu Tang abound, and at the time of writing there are at least seven places in West Edmonton Mall alone to ﬁnd a drink with boba’s signature smooth tapioca pearls. Despite the fact that we’ve seemingly hit Peak Bubble Tea (if there’s even such a thing), there is still plenty of demand for the refreshing beverage — and plenty of independent spots for boba.
When Sue Wong opened TeaCup2Go in the Ellerslie neighbourhood in 2013, she never would have guessed that “to go” would eventually become the main mode of food and drink because of a pandemic, nor that she would become a longstanding part of a city-wide bubble tea trend. After immigrating to Canada from Hong Kong, Wong wanted to open a cafe to serve traditional Chinese hot tea — and Hong Kong-style milk tea became TeaCup2Go’s speciality along with a versatile menu offering Taiwan-style bubble tea.
“As a small business, feedback from our customers is very important,” says Jovan Lee, TeaCup2Go’s marketing manager. “Our customers are like family and it’s important that we listen to them.” Over the years, TeaCup2Go has added a small snack menu and, during the pandemic, online ordering and delivery. “We were a very traditional shop and now some of our longstanding customers come in and say, ‘You’re so digital now, that’s a fancy POS [computer]!’”
To stand out from other shops, TeaCup2Go updates its menu every month with new, creative drinks. Each base recipe is tested and perfected in house, though customers can customize most drinks by adjusting the temperature, type of milk and sweetener, and amount of jelly or pearls. “It’s a lot of trial and error, and to stay competitive we try to meet the changing tastes of customers,” Lee says. “We are constantly thinking about how to adapt our recipes.” The original, signature milk tea remains on the menu, though even it has evolved over the years as Wong ﬁne tunes the method and recipe — the current version, Lee says, is always the best version.
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Currently, TeaCup2Go’s most popular drink is the Rainbow Mango, made with fresh mango, coconut juice, tapioca, mango pearls and rainbow jelly. “Real fruit, health-conscious drinks are popular,” Lee says, “as are fun ingredients and toppings. Our youngest customers of-ten requested Oreos, so we created the Oreo Tea-Rex.” Even the original milk tea can be ordered with tapioca and other ingredients as a Milk Tea-Puccino.
“We want our menu to suit the tastes of our local customers, and since we’re not a chain we can add new recipes fairly quickly,” Lee says. “Many of our customers are also our neighbours who work and live in the neighbourhood, and we always want to know what they’d like to see on our menu.”