85°C Bakery – worth the wait?

Jan 31, 2012

A recent article by Small Business Trends, “10 Food Business Trends to Watch for 2012”, notes the revival of artisanal products being offered at food service establishments. Even fast food giant, Jack in the Box, boasts a Turkey, Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Sandwich that is made with grilled artisanal bread.

When it comes to the word, “artisanal” and what actually qualifies something as such can be up to much debate. Artisan, itself, refers to something created by a skill craftsperson. Some people have their own standards, for instance, on what artisanal bread should consist of and how it is prepared (mainly limited ingredients, and baked in small batches). Our recent experience at a Southern California bakery has been stirring up a bread craze since ’08.


85°C Bakery

A long line that spans out of the door is usually a good sign at a restaurant.

Let’s take a look at 85°C bakery. No, don’t whip out your thermometer; we’re speaking of the utterly popular Taiwanese bakery/café chain (also known as the “Starbucks of Taiwan”) that has a whopping 607 locations around the globe. In the U.S., however, there are only two store locations (Irvine, California and Hacienda Heights, California). This relatively unknown (to Americans) behemoth was founded in 2004 by tea shop owner Wu Cheng-Hsueh and operated by Gourmet Master Co., Ltd., grosses an estimated$200 million in annual revenue.

So, is this just an Asian version of Starbucks? No, not really. And this differentiation can contribute to most of their success. They don’t just sell coffee, a small selection of baked goods and the featured CD of the month (sound familiar?)– they sell a vast assortment of freshly baked breads (their specialty), savory and sweet, an variety of teas and coffee as well as desserts. We are  suckers for their Hawaiian pizza bread -a moist, buttery bread with melted mozzarella cheese, pineapples, and moist chicken. At their Irvine location, there are an impressive 2689 reviews and 1146 photos posted and counting on Yelp! It’s not unusual to see people loading up their trays to the max with these goodies and lines that stretch out the door.

Why the massive popularity? Again, their vast selection of goodies from coconut bread and sweet taro bread, to beverages like almond milk tea and their famous sea salt coffee, offers guests different, exciting flavors and some familiar favorites like garlic bread, cream cheese brioche and mocha cake.

Best of all, the prices are very fair. Their beverages run about $2.50 for a medium size and nearly all of their bread offerings are only $1.00 – $3.75. And those long lines? Well, thanks to a big staff and efficient process (for large crowds, a staff member allows a few people in at a time where guests grab a tray, some tongs and pick out what they want, buffet style and off to pay they go. Plus there are two separate lines, ones for drinks and the other for food), on most non-high traffic days and hours (i.e. lunch time or the weekends), you’re likely to wait just 10 minutes to start selecting your food. Even in spite of the varying wait times, people keep coming back for more.


We recommend trying a few of these favorite menu items from 85°C Bakery:


  • taro bread
  • cream cheese brioche
  • milk pudding bun
  • garlic cheese bread
  • green onion roll
  • tuna danish
  • maple syrup toast
  • red bean bread
  • coconut twist
  • berrytale blueberry bun
  • chocolate bread loaf
  • cherry pinwheel


Cakes and desserts

  • creme brulee cake
  • mango panna cotta
  • tiramisu cake
  • blueberry cheesecake
  • egg custard
  • walnut tart
  • fruit tart
  •  mango blossom


  • grapefruit iced tea
  •  sea salt coffee
  • sea salt jasmine green tea
  • almond milk tea
  • hot caramel milk tea
  • passion fruit black tea

Have you tried 85°C yet? Do you find there’s real quality there or do you think it’s all overhyped? Leave us your comments!