International bubble tea chain opens first Austin store in Dobie Mall

Meara Isenberg

International bubble tea chain Gong Cha has officially opened its first Austin location in the Dobie Mall. The Taiwan-based tea and coffee shop offers chilled tea drinks to students looking to combat the summer heat.

Franchise owner Ellie Huang said she brought the chain to campus with hopes of attracting a younger generation of bubble tea drinkers. The store quietly opened earlier this week, but is holding a grand opening Friday through Saturday.

“We’ve been trying to get this store up-and-ready open for summer,” Huang said. “It’s good and bad, because it’s summer and a lot of students are going home, but good because (when it’s) hot, the only thing you want is a cooled drink, and that’s our specialty.”

There are currently more than 1,500 Gong Cha locations across the country, and Huang said she hopes to eventually open four total stores in Austin. Gong Cha serves bubble teas with various toppings and flavorings, along with coffee, yogurt drinks and slushes.

“We brew teas every four hours,” Huang said. “All of our products are fresh, because we believe after four hours, the drink will not taste the quality we want it to.”

Since there are already Gong Cha franchises in both Houston and Dallas, the brand is familiar to some students, such as psychology freshman Christopher Richards, who has previously visited the Houston location. Richards and his twin brother took a break from freshman orientation Tuesday to order a pair of milk teas in Dobie Mall.

“It was blistering hot outside, and we needed to get a drink,” Richards said. “I had an oreo milk foam tea, and it was actually pretty good.”

While he has a lot of campus eateries left to explore, Richards said he would return to Gong Cha to try different combinations.

Mathematics junior Vivian Huynh also stopped in with a friend during the store’s soft opening to try a winter melon drink with boba and basil seeds.

“We had Gong Cha in Asia before, where the original stores are, and it tastes pretty similar,” Huynh said.

Huynh said although Gong Cha is more expensive than other bubble tea spots she’s seen around campus — with teas ranging from $3 to $5 before toppings — the tea’s taste is of better quality.

Huynh’s friend, chemistry junior Jaydin Ngo, echoed her approval of the tea chain.

“I’m going to go bankrupt with this,” Ngo said, holding up his bubble tea.