Identifying Real – and Fake – Gong Cha Shops

By Bailey Hu, May 24, 2016

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If you’d never realized the Gong Cha shop just around the corner from your apartment was fake, you could be forgiven for the mistake. After all, it might have the same iconic red sign, with almost the exact same characters surrounding it. It could have an identical menu and similar labels for all of its Taiwanese-style tea drinks. The smiling people behind the counter might be wearing Gong Cha uniforms, and they certainly wouldn’t tell you that they worked for an imitation of the well-known, international brand. 

Why It Matters

What’s the difference, you might be asking yourself? It all tastes the same, or roughly the same anyway. But in fact, you may be putting yourself at risk by taking a Gong Cha sign at its word. Copycat brands may not have the same high standards as the original and may offer products that are unhealthy or even unsafe. 

Luckily, there are ways to tell a proper, licensed Gong Cha seller from its imitators. Ironically, one copycat company based in Guangdong posted a handy list of ways to differentiate between real and fake stores on its Weibo account. 

Although we’ll have to take it somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it does have some helpful suggestions and tips, including the following:

  • In real stores, the “Gong Cha” sign will have the characters “御可” [actually: 漾漾好] on the lower left-hand side. Fake ones will be missing these characters, or may substitute them with different ones.

Real Gong Cha Sign

The real thing.

fake-gong-cha.jpg

Most likely an unlicensed seller.

  • The tea and other ingredients used by real stores must all be recently prepared or brewed. For the sake of cost-efficiency, fake stores use instant tea or even products containing a high concentration of preservatives. To test this, you can ask workers to show you freshly used tea leaves, which fake stores won’t be able to provide.

  • The milk cap you order in real stores will be thick, with a smooth texture. The texture of fake milk caps is different with every store; some may even have a foamy feeling. 

Gong Cha Milk Cap

Some of Gong Cha's milk cap options, as featured on their Weibo account

  • The cups used in real stores are made of high-grade material. Fake stores don’t face the same requirements and may use plastic from industrial waste that's been reprocessed.

Last November the mainland division of Gong Cha released an online notice that it had successfully pursued suits against some of its imitators, possibly including the one mentioned above, and wouldn’t hesitate to bring down other copyright infringers.

Still, this is Chinese mainland and, despite the risks, burgeoning business owners can’t seem to resist the temptation of trying to cull some of Gong Cha’s gigantic customer base for themselves. There are counterfeit shops around every corner, and their number undoubtedly grows day by day.

The moral of the story? Double-check your signs, and don’t be afraid to ask probing questions the next time you stop for your regular order of milk-cap green tea. You may just thank yourself later.

[Image via Gong Cha]

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