With the gradual passing of the charcoal craze and influx of Cantonese-inspired munchies, Hong Kong cafés have been popping up like dandelions in May,and not simply in the designated Chinatown districts. One Pear Cafe on Dundas was amongst the pioneers of the food genre in the tourist-heavy Yonge/Dundas area; needless to say, its prices are also reflective of its prime foot traffic coordinates. Consequently, I never bothered to pay the shop a visit, in spite of its close proximity. A slightly lengthier trek would readily present me with access to Pineapple Buns and HK Milk Tea at a mere fraction of the price.
Observed in the spot just north of CoCo's Downtown Yonge location, Bake Island presented itself as a no-frills Chinese bakery capable of catering to both bo lo bau (菠蘿包) purists as well as trend-hunting urban citizens. The space was compact, yet varieties were vast: from classic Coconut Cocktail Buns (雞尾包) to delicately garnished Strawberry Buns to redolent Cheese Garlic Buns, not an inch of their shelves were left unstocked. The layout was almost identical to that of my local Chinese bakery, with the exception of their modern sliding bread trays.
On this visit, I obtained two items of interest: a Carbon Cheese Bun (one of the many "hip" options available) and a Coconut Cocktail Bun (a representative of Hong Kong casual eats). Swiss roll cakes and individual/whole cakes were also on display near the cashier. The beverage bar, which constituted as the café portion towards the back of the establishment, retailed an expansive array of milk teas and cha chan teng regulars.
Contained within was a basic cream cheese filling - neither heightened nor modified with synthetic additions. Satiating after-effects were experienced after consumption, but, speaking on a general note, it wasn't a terrible product. The bun was undeniably worth a one-time trial, though perhaps with a side of steaming green tea to purge fullness and aid with digestion.
I doubt freshness would have played a signficant factor in the bread, for several new batches were witnessed adorning the shelves during my stay. The lack of moisture may simply be a result of improper moisture adjustment during the cooler winter months.
On a final note, please be advised that cash and debit are the suggested methods of payment, as credit cards incur an additional charge of fifty cents. (That's 30% of a bun!)
The next day, I made a beeline for Yonge and Carlton, where I had witnessed a police takedown (involving a total of five officers) just twenty-four hours prior. Cuppa Tea had taken over Jule's old location - or an adjacent site anyway. It was difficult to distinguish the spots as my sole visit to the bubble tea vendor had taken place a few years back while building restoration operations were underway.
In spite of this, I remained eager to try their Signature Milk Tea. The beverage was offered in one size and delivered in a heavily decorated glass bottle. One could choose between iced and hot variations, though I did question whether the glass would be able to resist the heat should I order the latter. The cashier assured me that the drink would be served "at a drink-able temperature", and that all would fine.
Side note: The Signature Milk Tea and Sweet Milk Tea differ only by their choice of sweetner. Granulated sugar is utilized for the more popular Signature, while condensed milk for the other.
From the first swig to the final drop, the bottle's contents bedazzled with a boldness whose strength played on equal footing with its silky sapidity. Following each sip was an everlasting golden twinkle - otherwise known as 甘香味.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned areas of concern, my standpoint on their Signature Milk Tea prevails. I shall be inclined to pay Cuppa Tea another visit, even if their first impressions did not align precisely with my cup of tea.