A few may say Vancouver’s bubble-tea scene has become over-saturated and competitive, but die-hard fans of this tapioca beverage will argue otherwise. More bubble-tea shops mean more selection, and a soon-to-open establishment will continue to add to the city’s roster of boba offerings.
Taiwanese bubble-tea chain the Alley is gearing up to open its first Vancouver location in the downtown core (985 Hornby Street) this week, with an official launch set for Saturday (April 27).
The highly anticipated shop specializes in premium tea-based tapioca drinks, using quality, roasted tea leaves sourced from various regions. Its menu is made up of several beverage series, such as milk tea, brewed tea, fruit tea and juice, among others.
A fan-favourite pick is the Royal No.9 series, which uses red tea leaves with hints of blueberry flavours, and is available as a milk tea, brewed tea, or fresh milk tea option. It’s unique because milk-tea drinkers don’t usually anticipate a fruity aftertaste, which can make it a pleasant surprise when the blueberry flavour finally reaches your palate.
But its signature and most popular bubble teas, which have garnered a cult-like following around the world, are its brown-sugar “Deerioca” series. Deerioca is the brand’s trademark tapioca pearls, which are cooked with brown-sugar lava for two hours. The slow-cooking process makes them satisfyingly soft and chewy with a distinct sweet flavour, and is served warm.
Guests can choose to pair the Deerioca with fresh milk, soy milk, matcha, and the puff—a relatively new addition to the brown-sugar series that features custard pudding.
Besides its milk-tea drinks, the Alley’s menu also offers many fruit-based thirst-quenchers such as guava-lime juice, lime-honey with aloe, and lemon-winter-melon punch.
Its Aurora series are slush-based drinks that are very photogenic. The Morning Dawn and Northern Lights are characterized by its ombré layers served in a clear bottle, which resemble the colourful hues from aurora borealis, and feature flavour profiles like butterfly-pea tea, mango, and jasmine tea.
The 580-square-feet space sports an industrial and modern aesthetic, highlighted by wooden tables, a brick wall, and several deer-inspired décor. The Alley was created by four interior designers, which is clearly reflected in the bubble-tea shop’s stylish furnishings.
According to the Alley’s operations manager Hongki Leung, the name of the international bubble-tea brand pays homage to Taiwan’s many alleyways.
“The Taiwanese culture is that people would just walk around and buy a drink from a stall. But the founders wanted a way for people to find a space and relax to enjoy their drinks and get away from the busy life, [and] away from the alleys,” Leung explained to the Straight in an interview at the Hornby Street outlet.
“We’re different from other bubble-tea shops because we are really focusing on the teas itself,” Vicky Cai, the Alley Vancouver’s franchisee, told the Straight in an interview at the downtown spot. “We would like to bring more options to customers, and let them try new drinks like our Deerioca bubble teas.”
The Alley soft-opens from April 24 to 26, and visitors will be able to receive 10 percent off all beverages on its menu. It will officially launch on the weekend, and its grand-opening takes place on April 27 and 28. The first 100 customers will receive a free large-size milk tea or tea beverage, and the bubble-tea shop will offer 15 percent off specialty drinks during the opening weekend.
Scroll through the photos below for a first look inside the Alley in Vancouver.