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Tea Industries

There is a new bubble tea cafe that has been garnering some interest. The first and only one in BC with a robot making your drinks.

Located across from Richmond Centre, this is Tea Industries. From the outside it doesn’t seem like much, especially with the one sandwich board, its blinds drawn, and frosted glass obscuring a look at anything within. You can’t tell the unique experience that lies within, unless you walk in.

You can place your order using one of the two self serve kiosks by the door, or can do it old school via communicating with a live clerk. Employees are on hand incase you need assistance, but the entire experience can be done without talking to anyone, which is great for those not looking for small talk.

Currently their menu only has 12 robotic milk tea and tea options, with more in the works. Anything you want hot, will have to be done by human hands. Speaking with the store manager he also informed us that a food menu is in the works. That they are toying with easy, pre-made grab and go items; considering that they are near the skytrain and have a bus stop right outside their doors. Currently sandwiches, wraps, and/or onigiri is on the table; and even popcorn chicken that can be easily dropped into the air fryer to reheat. All the food will be prepared ahead of time at a centralized kitchen, and transported to the Tea Industries Cafe the day off. And like their drink menu, whatever they decide on, they are sure to have it be of all natural ingredients.

Their drinks are only prepared with cane sugar and they only use real homogenized milk. So this may not be friendly for those who need plant-based alternatives.

We went with their ROBO Thai Milk Tea and ROBO Jasmine Green Milk Tea, both with 50% ice and 50% sugar. The ice are chips and melt quick, and we found the drinks weren’t that sweet to begin with, so I would recommend and would have gone no ice and regular sweetness, if I could do it again.

Once you have ordered and paid, you get a receipt that you will need to keep to claim your completed beverage. The drink making process then starts within the robot booth adjacent. A sealed off plexiglass box that you can stand and watch, much like the claw machines at an arcade. And despite photos of their sandwich board and social media page, the robot does not look humanoid. It is simply a robotic arm programmed to carry out the moving of the drink cup from station to station.

Starting with the size of cup, the robotic arm picks it up, upside down then pausing at a platform it flips it right side up, before filling it with your chosen amount of ice. Next the robot arm moves the cup to the station that will drop in any chosen toppings, either passion fruit or tapioca pearls. We got the latter in the Jasmine Green Milk Tea. Next it brings the half filled cup to the tea machine where two spouts sputter in the pre-made tea selection. After, the cup is dropped into a real bubble tea cup sealing machine; where a classic plastic cover is adhered over the cardboard paper cup. To conclude, the robotic arm gives things a minor shake to mix it all up, before depositing the finished drink one to one of two pedestals. Here, it gets lowered into the pick up bin, either door 1 or 2. Your need your original receipt with code to scan in and have the door open, releasing your drink, which you can grab and pull out to enjoy.

Leaving your beverage in said compartment for too long results in our robot friend reclaiming it, and adding it to the counter before its enclosed box. And there it sits, until a human associate opens the door and retrieves it.

The best part about watching your bubble tea being made is the fact that your new found robotic friend waves good bye once its job is done.

You can either take your claimed drink to go, or have it in the cafe. There are no tables, instead a series a steps with cushions, for floor seating. This area, the store manager mentions, is available for event space and meeting rentals. Not necessarily the most comfortable, but an interesting configuration for some unique round room discussions.

As for the drinks themselves I am not a fan. Maybe it was because I took the clerk’s suggestion of ice and less sugar, but I found both watery and lacking any flavour from either teas. The Thai tea had a floral rosy note to it, and was not what I know the often bold and fragrant Thai iced tea to be. Perhaps the machine had its tubes crossed and the milk and tea that was mixed was not what was intended?

Similarly, the Jasmine green tea milk was more watery milk, with only a very faint jasmine flavour. It even overflowed in cup when being sealed. Here, you can’t blame the robot, because it is only following programmed instructions, but the drink had no depth or soul. It tasted like something with no taste buds made it, ironically. And the texture of the tapioca pearls was off. Gritty, and not as chewy from a fresh boiled batch. Disappointing, but I did finish my cup.

Truthfully not worth the trip out for the drinks, but a fun novelty to try if you are already in the neighbourhood.

Tea Industries
6386 No. 3 Rd #195, Richmond, BC V6Y
(236) 808-7923

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