Tea, tapioca, curries and crepes are just a few of the delicious offerings available at one of Collingwood’s newest cafes.
Located along Hurontario Street, Inside Cafe opened its doors to the public at the end of July.
“These three months, they have been so good. I’m really happy,” says Charity Fung, co-owner and operator of the new cafe.
The brightly lit shop transformed the former Fig & Feta building into a quaint little cafe, the perfect size for Fung. It features just four tables in the windowsill and a long bar that stretches the length of the room to showcase where the magic happens. Fig and Feta moved to a new location still on Hurontario Street.
Fung and her coworkers skillfully slice, shake, and stir various ingredients into their famous bubble tea. Inside Cafe is the first to bring the Taiwanese treat to Collingwood, and according to Fung, her customers are ecstatic they no longer have to drive to Barrie or Toronto to taste the sweet squish of the tapioca pearls.
In its simplest form, bubble tea is a drink made from tea, fruit, coffee or milk, with chewy “pearls” at the bottom of each cup.
The bubble-like pearls, which are the defining feature of the drink, are marble-sized (or smaller) balls of tapioca, a starch extracted from cassava root that is naturally gluten-free. The raw tapioca pearls are then cooked in boiling water and soaked in a simple syrup mixture so they become sweet and remain chewy until they are served.
Inside Cafe features two main types of bubble tea. Customers choose between a milk-based or tea-based drink and can adjust the sweetness levels and additional ingredients as they please. Fung likes to add fresh fruit to her green tea-based drink and says the one she makes with brown sugar and milk is also very popular.
“Some people don’t know what bubble tea is, so I make up a couple different styles. They try it and they all love it,” says Fung. “But most people know what it is and are happy now they can get it in Collingwood.”
Fung immigrated to Canada from her home in Hong Kong over 20 years ago and has been living in Collingwood for the past eight of them.
With a hospitality and hotel management background, Fung spent the previous years working at restaurants around town. She was always curious why there wasn’t a place to get bubble tea in the area.
“I didn’t understand why Collingwood didn’t have bubble tea, and over four years ago I decided I wanted it. But I couldn’t find the right place,” says Fung.
It wasn’t until earlier this year that she was walking down Hurontario and saw that the former Greek restaurant was moving.
“I looked inside and it was perfect. It was the perfect size for me. I went in right then and asked the owner. She helped me.”
Fung made a snap decision, and a few weeks later, she was on her way to Taiwan with her business partner to learn the tricks of the trade. They spent a month learning all about bubble tea, tapioca, and different types of tea and serving styles.
The duo graduated from training at the end of June and opened up Inside Cafe just a few weeks later.
“We went, we learned, we graduated, and we came back to open. We learned a lot in a very short period of time,” says Fung.
As a hospitality professional, Fung has always loved cooking. She is excited to be able to do what she loves for people everyday. Their menu is entirely homemade with fresh ingredients, and Fung says she is focused on keeping it healthy and delicious. The crepes use her very own batter recipe, and she likes experimenting with different specials and daily soups any chance she gets.
The first-time business owner says there is still a lot to figure out, but she is excited to learn. And Fung is focused on introducing the Taiwanese tea to as many people as she can, through her words, her pictures, and her delicious food.
“I love Collingwood so much. The people are so nice and supportive,” said Fung. “There were days in the summer where we had lineups out the door. I really like it here.”