Foodie Adventures, Life in Japan

What’s Up With The Long Lines At Gong Cha In Tokyo?

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To celebrate the final day of Golden Week, little Kaiju and I headed to Gong Cha in Ikspiari to try its Strawberry Lovers lineup. Even after arriving before 9:30, we were still 30+ people deep in line!

The day before, I had a project at Shibuya MODI. As I sat outside the mall, the line for the Gong Cha at grew and grew, leading me to wonder what’s up with the long lines at Gong Cha in Tokyo?
Now, long lines in Japan are nothing short of extraordinary when it comes to anything that’s arriving on Japanese shores for the first time (日本初上陸 | nihon hatsu jyouriku).
After 3-6 months or so, the hype eventually dies down.  What was once a “must” barely makes a blip on the radar of social media.
However, bubble tea is a wonderfully photogenic drink that is perfect for sharing on SNS. And, bubble tea from Gong Cha is one of the most popular chains in Tokyo. It makes sense that people would line up just to say (and prove on Instagram) that they had Gong Cha.


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But, Gong Cha, a Taiwanese chain of bubble tea shops, has been in Japan since 2015 and yet the  Harajuku/Omotesando location still commands long lines on weekends and holidays.
My nearest Gong Cha, at Ikspiari, opened less than 3 years ago, and I can remember ONE time that I’ve seen it without a line.


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Can a girl please get her Gong Cha fix in 10 minutes or less?


I’ve had Gong Cha all over Asia, starting with my delightful encounter in Seoul 6 years ago. But, for some reason, I have only had Gong Cha all of 3 times since it arrived in Tokyo.

The place where it all started: Gong Cha near Jongro Sam-Ga Station in Seoul

On top of that, they don’t even carry my favorite flavor, winter melon tea, which made me bitterly disappointed the first time I went to the Ikspiari location.
I didn’t find Winter Melon Milk Tea in mainland China either on my visit to Wuhan, but look at how pretty this cup is!

But, here’s why I think Gong Cha always has long lines. You can customize your drink to your liking by choosing the kind of base tea, adjusting the size, amount of sugar, ice, and other ingredients (“toppings,” even though most don’t float).

Me, I’m all about seasonal flavors and limited edition menu selections, so I’m perfectly fine with everything being “regular” (ふつう). It’s everyone else in line holding things up for the people in the back!

But, if you’re in Tokyo and want to know how Gong Cha compares to bubble tea at home, you might be in luck:  Gong Cha aims to have at least 100 stores open across Japan by 2020, meaning there might finally be a solution to the ridiculously long wait times!

What’s Up With The Long Lines At Gong Cha In Tokyo?


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