One Zo Tapioca
G/F Promenade Mall, Greenhills Shopping Center, San Juan City
Open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Sunday to Thursday) and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Friday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) Milk tea has become the go-to drink for Filipinos everywhere—with creamy milk, sweet tea, and chewy pearls all coming together to quench your thirst while satisfying your sweet tooth. While the drink comes in different variants and flavors, pearls are the undisputed favorite add-on. Some are chewier than others and some are rock hard (much to our dismay!), but pearls mostly come in one flavor. Until now, that is.
Taiwan-based milk-tea shop One Zo Tapioca quietly opened their first branch in the Philippines at Promenade in Greenhills on May 10, with a "grand launch" set for June 18. Unlike most milk-tea shops, the space behind the counter is visible to customers and it doesn’t take a long look to wonder what the big silver machines are for.
Delivered straight from Taiwan, one machine mixes dough, and another machine flattens it up and forms it into tiny spheres. The store looks like it could be in the business of selling bread, but they're actually making pearls. And while One Zo Tapioca carries the usual pearl variant everyone is familiar with, they offer unconventional pearl flavors as well.
Owner Christopher Chua trained in Taiwan to understand the process of how pearls are made and has researched extensively to create flavors that cater to the Filipino milk-tea drinker. When asked why he chose One Zo Tapioca to bring to the Philippines, he said, “The market is already saturated with so many brands. But what’s good about One Zo is [that they're] the only brand—currently—who is able to showcase the actual production of the pearls.” He continues, “It’s a unique selling point—'yong pearls nga freshly made every day in store. We are the only brand who is able to produce different flavors for our pearls.”
Each foreign franchise of One Zo Tapioca has different flavors and it depends on what a particular country likes. “If you go to other countries, the pearls that they have [are] cactus, black sesame, of course 'yong brown sugar, but they don’t offer 'yong mga taro, matcha, and mango,” he says.
For the Philippines, they also had to choose specific flavors. “When we did our research; more or less these are the flavors that are more suitable for the Filipino market and One Zo was very supportive in making sure that the flavors that we offer are suitable to the local taste.”
For now, One Zo Tapioca offers five flavors: Strawberry, Matcha, Taro, Brown Sugar, and the Philippine-exclusive Mango. Lorraine Yao, who handles One Zo Tapioca’s marketing, says the mango flavor here is special. "'Yong mango [pearls], [we use] Philippine mango. Iba 'yong mango niya sa ibang country."
You get to choose the pearls that go with your drink, but their staff can recommend a tried-and-tested combination if you're not too sure. Or you can go for their house specials and bestsellers, which they based on what they observed during their soft opening.
Their 3-in-1 Milk Tea (P120/medium, P140/large) comes with a milk-tea base and three different pearl flavors. You can choose three from the five flavors they offer, but you can order it with just one flavor, too. It's strange seeing different colors in a milk-tea cup, but it makes for a pretty sight. Each sip is a surprise because you won't know which flavor will come up your straw!
Taro fans should try ordering their Taro Delight (P110/medium, P130/large), which uses a taro milk-tea base with a generous helping of taro pearls. When we say this is taro overload, we mean it—it also shows in how purple the beverage is. Even with the taro flavor present all throughout, it does not come across as overwhelming or too sweet.
If matcha is more your taste, go for It’s a MATCH! (P145/medium, P165/large), a drink concocted to satisfy the die-hard matcha lover. The drink has a matcha milk-tea base and a generous serving of their matcha pearls. We're not one to shy away from a sip.
Brown sugar milk has got everyone hooked lately, and One Zo Tapioca has their own version. Their Dirty Milk (P130/medium, P150/large) has fresh milk with a drizzle of brown-sugar syrup and their signature brown-sugar pearls. The creamy milk and the deep flavor of the brown sugar complement each other while letting the pearls in this drink stand out. Chewy and soft, we get why they're One Zo Tapioca's star.
If you're looking for something a little lighter but just as cool and refreshing, their Wintermelon Pineapple Fruit Tea (P125) is a good alternative. Sweet but not excessively so, it's a good way to have something sugary without being too indulgent. Chua and Yao recommend adding either strawberry or mango pearls to elevate this drink.
Wintermelon Milk Tea (P85/medium, P105/medium) is the go-to order of many casual milk-tea drinkers. Though it's not a house special, their version of the drink has a unique cotton-candy aftertaste. Chua and Yao recommend forgoing the sugar for this drink if you plan to get it with their brown-sugar pearls.
Their first and only branch is at Promenade in Greenhills, but Chua plans to open up branches in Araneta Center and Estancia in the latter half of 2019. With countless possibilities, there's plenty in store for One Zo Tapioca. We have yet to see what change flavored pearls can bring to the milk-tea game, but we're more than ready for what's to come.
Photos by Hans Fausto