Sweet Dreams Teashop is a dream come true for anyone who loves bubble tea and delicious food. The charming café serves bubble tea, loose leaf tea, and a variety of food and pastries. All of these marvelous things can be found at 170 University Ave in the University Shops Plaza.
Sweet Dreams Teashop was opened in 1999 by Jinny, who was a student at the University of Waterloo. At this time there were no other bubble tea shops in Waterloo, thus Sweet Dreams became the very first of its kind.
Jinny started off as a co-op student studying finance. However, she soon discovered that finance was not for her, and she couldn’t imagine doing it for the rest of her life.
One day a friend of Jinny’s introduced her to bubble tea – she’d never had it before, as bubble tea was not quite as popular back then as it is now. So she tried it for the first time and…she hated it! She thought it was strange and too chewy. So, she never drank bubble tea again and that is the end of our story. Ha ha, just kidding.
Because her friend was so adamant, she gave it another shot, this time choosing the flavour taro. One sip of the sweet, delightful taro flavour and from then on, she was addicted to bubble tea! And to think, where would we all be if Jinny’s friend hadn’t insisted she try bubble tea all those years ago?
As Jinny grew to love bubble tea, she realised Waterloo needed a teashop. Being a student herself, she wanted to create a place where students could just sit and hang out, a place where they felt welcome. She imagined it being similar to the coffee shop Central Perk from the TV show Friends – a place which is warm and friendly, a place you belong to.
Ironically, as a child, Jinny never dreamed that she would end up running her own teashop. Growing up, her parents had their own small business: a convenience store in Toronto. They worked very hard and gave nearly all of their time to their business, and seeing this, Jinny promised herself that she would never own a business when she grew up! Little did she know that she would become a pioneer of bubble tea in the Waterloo region. But she loves what she does, and she is very devoted to her shop.
Sweet Dreams Teashop is open until 1am Sunday to Wednesday, and until 2am Thursday to Saturday, making it the perfect spot for all the night owls who want a place to study late. Jinny caters her place to the needs and wants of the students, because she knows exactly what it’s like to be in their place.
The speciality at Sweet Dreams Teashop is, of course, bubble tea. If you don’t know what bubble tea is, it’s a Taiwanese drink invented in the 1980s, made from a tea base mixed with fruit and/or milk. Tapioca pearls or fruit jellies are then added as well.
At Sweet Dreams Teashop, your bubble tea can be served hot or cold and comes in a multitude of flavours. There are so many flavours, you could have a different one every day of the month and you still wouldn’t run out of new ones to try! My personal favourites are honeydew, cantaloupe, and of course, taro. They also have some premium tea flavours such as “We Love You Oolong Time”, “Easy as Chai” and “50 Shades of Earl Grey”.
The menu is divided into three steps to make ordering simple and easy to understand, although it’s never easy deciding between all the tempting flavours.
Step one: choose the type of tea you want. There are hot, cold or frozen options.
Step two: choose your flavour! Here comes the hard part. There are so many to choose from! There are milk tea flavours and non-milk tea flavours.
Step three: personalize your drink. You can choose what kind of sweetener you want to be used in your drink and you can alter the level of sweetness (0%, 50%, 100%, etc.) depending on how sweet you like it. You can modify the dairy or opt for a non-dairy option like soy, almond or coconut milk. Then you can add whatever else you fancy, such as coconut jellies, which come in a variety of flavours, tapioca, aloe, sweetened red bean, and whipped cream.
Following these steps, you are sure to end up with a delicious bubble tea that suits your individual taste perfectly.
The café also serves coffee drinks including French press coffee, iced coffee, hot mocha, frozen cappuccino and frozen moccaccino. They also make fruit milkshakes and slushies, and a number of “sweet creations” such as flavoured iced drinks, lemonade, and a hot French vanilla.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Sweet Dreams Teashop cooks up a delicious food menu featuring a variety of fresh salads, gourmet sandwiches and some authentic Asian dishes such as Bahn Mi sandwiches, dumplings, udon noodle soup, spring rolls, buns and the infamous Taiwanese toast!
Now you’re going to think, what could be so special about toast? Well let me tell you, I have never had a piece of toast as decadent as the one I got from Sweet Dreams. There are different toppings to choose from, but I tried my toast topped with condensed milk on Jinny’s recommendation.
I was served a thick, fluffy slice of bread, toasted golden brown and drizzled with creamy, syrupy condensed milk, which had a sweet, delicate, milky flavour. The plate was decorated nicely with whipped cream flowers. It was toast in dessert form! Jinny likes it because it is a light, simple dessert, which sets it apart from the richer European desserts. It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tried.
However, the teashop sells some European-style desserts as well, including a variety of cupcakes, tarts and colourful French macarons, which are supplied from the Toronto bakery Dufflet Pastries.
Going to a bubble tea café, you might not expect to find a cute mug for sale, or an adorable enamel pin, or a Pusheen plush, but at Sweet Dreams Teashop, you can find all of these things and more. The café has a small section for gifts and trinkets of all sorts, and they are all so cute!
At Sweet Dreams Teashop, students are welcome to play the many board games available. The board games have been offered since day one, at absolutely no charge. Jinny said, “I like to keep the board games free, I always have, that’s just who we are.” It’s nice for the students to have a place where they can spend a fun night playing games together with no additional cost.
The atmosphere here is very inviting and positive. Jinny was wonderful to speak to; she was energetic and bubbly and happily answered all of our questions. She was so kind to us and so were the staff. They took care of us, making sure we had everything we needed and that we were happy.
The decor is light, airy and cute. The windows are decorated with fun doodles and characters painted with window paint. There are origami paper cranes hanging from the ceilings, folded from pretty, floral paper. The walls feature the work of local artists and art students who want to have their art displayed. It’s a charming, relaxed environment.
Sweet Dreams Teashop also hosts special events from time to time, such as open-mic nights, trivia nights, and music nights when local DJs and musicians perform.
Once a year, Sweet Dreams Teashop donates their time and resources to a non-profit organisation. Jinny said it’s a lot of work, but she enjoys doing it; it’s her way of giving back to the community. This year, Jinny is also taking on another project. It started when she realised how many shoe boxes she had at home. She didn’t want to waste them by simply throwing them away, so she decided to get some other local businesses involved to pack the shoe boxes for refugee families in the area.
Sweet Dreams Teashop has just adopted a new logo which is particularly special to them; an origami paper crane. Jinny said that ever since opening, staff and customers have enjoyed making these paper cranes for fun. Over the years, they have become part of their identity. Additionally, paper cranes symbolise hope and light during challenging times. Jinny has faced many hardships throughout her journey as a business owner. The paper cranes are a reminder to stay hopeful and positive.
Sweet Dreams Teashop has always been my go-to place for bubble tea; in my opinion they make the best in town. It was a pleasure to learn more about the shop. I encourage all bubble tea lovers to try Sweet Dreams, and even if you think you don’t like bubble tea, remember: Jinny didn’t like it either, and now she owns a place that specialises in it! So it’s possible you’ll end up liking it too. Maybe you’ll even end up owning your own bubble tea shop one day – who knows! All I know is, Sweet Dreams Teashop is a wonderful café run by kind, hard-working people who make delicious bubble tea.