Since the first opening of this tea-cafe franchise in Toronto last year, “The Alley” has rapidly expanded to four more locations in the GTA including their newest one which opened in November in Markham – a hot spot for bubble tea fanatics. Originally from the Taichung region in Taiwan, The Alley boasts an upscale ambiance accompanied by high-end artisanal drinks in comparison to its competitors.The warm-toned bricks and aesthetically pleasing interior – prominently filled with black and gold trinkets, exposed bulb lighting, isolated greenery, and deer-themed decor – provide a comforting ambience in the spacey tea room.
The bar itself is an open-concept, where the tea-ristas – just as open in their welcoming service – meticulously make each drink to order. Most of their teas are a twist on classic favourites and are entirely original, from their flavours down to their names. Drinks labelled as “Iron Goddess”, “Dark Knight”, and “In Love with Lemonway” spark a curiosity that undoubtedly requires description from the tea connoisseurs.
Just like their deer trademark, their tea leaf blends are signature to their store. The White Peach Oolong Tea ($5.10) is brewed straight with no added sugar or milky components. The subtle sweetness compliments the robust oolong and has become one of my favourite drinks there due to its unique taste. Also from their “Finest Collection” is the Uji Matcha Latte ($6). I’m usually underwhelmed by the matcha option at most bubble tea stores, but was surprised with its quality; the matcha was not too bitter and also left a pleasant aftertaste.
Some of their lighter and refreshing drinks include the Citron Soda ($5.50), made of pomelo skin, and the Northern Lights ($7.50), one of their most Instagrammable concoctions that give an ethereal feel to it with its gradient colours.
For those looking for a new way to enjoy bubble tea in the GTA, The Alley’s newest drink will be sure to be fascinate. The Brown Sugar Deerioca ($6) is a milk or soy milk-based drink served with handcrafted tapioca that is slow-cooked in brown sugar for 2 hours. Although this is a traditional and authentic recipe that is common at Taiwan night-markets, The Alley is the first to have it available in Toronto. The combined bursting caramel flavour from the brown sugar lava, chewy texture of the warm tapioca, and cold fresh milk has won my heart over. Since this brewing method requires patience, this drink is only available from the early afternoon onwards.
Overall, their hand-crafted drinks are smooth without the creaminess or sweetness overpowering the tea flavour. Even their natural and delicately-tasting sweetener, a sugar cane syrup, is made in-house, which shows that quality down to every detail is attended to when making beverages. I am sincerely fawn-ed of you, The Alley.