Meet Fresh Taiwanese treats

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by Audrey Ho

Bowen Liu wants to share the flavours of Asia with students and the community.

As the most popular Taiwanese dessert brand, Meet Fresh recently came to Toronto, and now, to the Waterloo region in the heart of the plaza at Phillip St. and University Ave. Meet Fresh has over 600 stores worldwide from South Korea to Australia to the US.

“I would say it’s very authentic. You’ve never seen this type of dessert here,” one of the store managers at Meet Fresh’s Waterloo location said.

Officially opening on Nov. 9, there will be a three-day giveaway. On Nov. 9, Meet Fresh Waterloo will be giving away 100 free Q mochi desserts. On Nov. 10 and 11, they’ll be giving away 100 free taro ball desserts and 100 free grass jelly desserts. The store opens at 12p.m. and it will be first come, first serve.

Specifically, Liu’s inspiration for bringing Meet Fresh to the Waterloo community was the uniqueness of the desserts that Meet Fresh offers on its menu.

“It’s something never seen here at Waterloo. Even in Toronto, you don’t see herbal jelly with taro balls [as their signature dish],” Liu said.

Imprint sampled Meet Fresh’s signature dish, a herbal jelly dessert with herbal blended ice and taro balls, a purple rice rorridge with rice balls, the winter melon fresh milk tea with tapioca, and winter melon tea with lemon juice. The portions for the herbal jelly and porridge desserts were quite large and definitely more than enough for two people. The herbal jelly came with milk to add on top and was a tasty mix of soft and chewy textures. The porridge was warm and perfect for a cold afternoon. The drinks were delicious and definitely worth a try, especially since the flavours are so distinct!

As a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo, Liu has experienced the growth of restaurants and cafes in the local area.

“When I was in first year, there was only one bubble tea place, Sweet Dreams. But then Chatime opened up, CoCo’s opened up, and in the past five years, [there have been] a lot more options,” said Liu.

Liu envisions Meet Fresh to similarly follow the rapid rise in the popularity of bubble tea.

“Taro balls have a very similar texture compared to tapioca. [We] don’t expect locals to come here by themselves. [We want to] build up a network where us Asian Canadians can recommend this place to other people of other backgrounds. [We want to] see if we can develop this type of business among non-Asian students here,” said Liu.

The concept was started by Mr. and Mrs. Fu, a traditional farming couple living in Central Taiwan, who wanted to preserve the traditional methods, taste, and overall cuisine of Taiwanese desserts.

The name, Meet Fresh is derived from Mr. and Mrs. Fu’s desire to introduce customers fresh and healthy desserts they created and sold.

“Everything is made fresh [at Meet Fresh]. We only get taro balls imported from Taiwan. Everything else is locally sourced,” Liu said.

The ingredients are healthy.

“Sweet potato and taro are vegetables that are good for you. Herbal jelly cools you down in Chinese medicine. We’re also trying to do some vegan options and maybe add soy milk options [to the menu]. It’s something we’re working on at the moment,” Liu said.