Table Hoppin’: Gong Cha brings bubble tea to Theater District

A man and woman pose inside a Gong cha bubble tea franchise location near a top 10 menu.

The idea of a “new normal” didn’t curb the enthusiasm of entrepreneurial spirit for Jason and Hannah Vuong, Gong Cha franchise owners who last year opened a bubble tea shop at 24 Southbridge St., Worcester.

First-time business owners, the couple signed a lease in 2019 and faced a delay in opening when the pandemic put the brakes on renovations at their location, once Pickwick’s restaurant. It was a difficult decision to hold off plans, said the Vuongs, but they eagerly anticipated the grand opening which was held Sept. 4. The couple paid attention to the ambiance of the shop, creating a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere.

Bubble tea (or boba) is a drink that has been around for a while, originating in Taiwan.

The tea is made with either oolong, green, or black tea and can have many variations from milk tea to fruit juice tea. A wide range of ingredients and flavors can be added to it. The beverage includes signature “bubbles” or tapioca balls.

Gong Cha’s list of Top 10 drinks include Milk Foam Green Tea, Pearl Milk Tea, Earl Grey Milk Tea with 3 J’s, Passion Fruit Green Tea, Milk Foam Dirty Brown Sugar Milk Tea, Strawberry Milk Tea, Taro, Match Tea Latte, Lemon Ai-Yu with White Pearl, Passionfruit Yogurt Slush. You’ll find so much more on the local shop’s menu, including the Original Bubble Waffle and Bubble Waffle with Pearl. Waffles are made fresh to order. FYI: Gong Cha’s milk teas are made with plant creamer, all non-dairy with the exception of the fresh milk series.

Don’t worry if you’re new to bubble tea, employees at Gong Cha are very helpful, according to the Vuongs, who post daily specials and promotions on Instagram and Facebook. Social media plays an important role in the business, they said.

The shop, currently open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, offers takeout and delivery, with plans to include indoor seating sometime in May. “We have tables and chairs set aside and will set them up as soon as we consider it safe,” said the owners, who also will add a few outside seats. For now, customers order inside the shop or online. Call (508) 373-2100; visit www.gongchausa.com. Note: There is parking in the alley next to the shop, or park off street.

Jason Vuong left a career in banking, his wife, healthcare, to open what the Gong Cha franchise reports as the newest of its Massachusetts stores. It’s also regarded as one of the largest, according to the Vuongs, who proudly showcase it.

Not only do the Vuongs love the Gong Cha brand, but also the business location next to The Hanover Theatre and across from the Francis R. Carroll Plaza near the Federal Courthouse. The city’s plan to expand Carroll Plaza to make it pedestrian-only, extending the plaza to the front door of the theater as well as the addition of outdoor tables and seats was the draw to the the location, said the Vuongs, adding that they are thankful for help from the Worcester Economic Development agency in their search for a location. “We very much want to be a part of the city’s emerging growth,” said the couple.

Jason Vuong grew up in Worcester, Hannah Vuong in Leominster. The couple, married eight years, have two children. Vuong credits his wife with having the dream of owning a business and helping to realize it for both of them.

It’s National Bubble Tea Day on April 30, but don’t wait until then to visit the local Gong Cha to enjoy one of its beverages. Note: A bubble tea emoji is on the list of Unicode emoji characters, credit to bubble tea’s continued popularity.

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