Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
The Best Restaurant in the World
Joy of Tea
Rich: We kicked off Day 2 with an infuriating visit to the hilariously named Joy of Tea. Here’s the T: Don’t go there.
When we got to the J of T, which is really just a stand, the woman from Hong Kong who was working there did not say hi. She kinda frowned at me, actually. Never in my life have I received this kind of treatment at a Disney property!
Caity: Here’s how Joy of Tea advertises its chief offering on its official Disney webpage: “Steep your senses in the aromatic essence of tea, one of the world’s most popular drinks!” One of the world’s most popular drinks is, while technically accurate, kind of a weird way to describe tea. Other popular drinks include water and soda. There’s no joy in that description. It’s more like “Existence of Tea.”
Caity: More than any other country, Epcot China conjured the precise feelings and emotions I always imagined I would have when visiting that country. In this case: confusion, bewilderment, and extreme frustration at my inability to communicate.
Rich: I think in China, I’d be afraid that the language barrier would have me accidentally eating meat at some point, so I would just eat ice cream. And that’s just what I did. Ice cream for breakfast!!! Today is my day.
By the way, everything at Joy of Tea—besides the ice cream and drinks—had meat in it. Epcot is, oddly, not so vegetarian friendly. It’s the happiest place on earth, but happier for some (meat eaters) than others (vegetarians, farm animals).
Caity: And I say: It’s not a meal unless it has meat in it, even if the meal is ice cream or a beverage. I was primed and ready to do the heavy lifting at this small China-themed pavilion.
Rich: And so, taking one for the team, you ordered a basket of fried odds and ends.
Caity: A “Lucky Combo: Combination of a Pork Bun, a Chicken Pocket, and an Egg Roll with your choice of a Soft Drink and an Ice Cream. ($9.98).” I also got a can of Diet Coke for $1.59.
Rich: In addition to the ice cream, I ordered a Green Tea Plum Slush. “The plum wine is sweet and sour. Iz that okay?” asked the stand’s other employee, from Wuhan. Is sweet and sour OK? Duh, I’m in China.
Caity: To be fair to the girls (let’s call them Joy and Joy’s friend to protect their identities), the ordering confusion originated on our end. After parsing the menu, we decided to try one of each ice cream, Rich would get his separately, and mine would arrive as part of my meat-laden Lucky Combo.
Here’s how we ordered:
Rich: I’ll have a Green Tea Plum Slush. And we’ll have one of each ice cream.
Caity: No, no! My combo comes with ice cream.
Rich: Oh, O.K. I’ll have the Caramel Ginger ice cream.
Caity: I’ll do a Lucky Combo with Strawberry Red Bean and a Diet Coke.
So far so good. Confusion negated.
Joy: So you’re getting one of each ice cream?
Caity and Rich: (nod) Right.
Rich: And we were! I guess it was my fault, for saying “one of each ice cream,” first.
I was so excited! To be eating two ice creams for breakfast!!!
Caity: I think the problem is we were operating in different tenses. You and I were thinking: By the end of the meal, we will have gotten one of each ice cream. The young woman serving us was thinking: These people are currently separately ordering one of each ice cream. Ice cream for breakfast! So crazy, I love them.
Rich: I don’t think she loved us at any point.
Caity: No, she did not; I was joking. She did not like us.
After that, the world exploded into chaos.
Joy and Joy’s friend handed me our bill and asked for my signature, which I provided. Then they unloaded onto the counter: one (1) Diet Coke, one (1) green slush version of one (1) of the world’s most popular drinks, and two (2) ice creams.
No. Lucky. Combo.
I knew instantly what had happened. As a line began to form behind us, I explained that, actually, we wanted a Lucky Combo, with the Diet Coke and an ice cream included as part of it. The girls turned to one another and had an extended conversation we could not understand. It involved lots of pointing.
Then Joy took our receipt and told me she would add a Lucky Combo.
Rich: She did. However she just...added it alongside the items we had already paid for, which means we paid for ice cream and Diet Coke that should have been included. “We”—I mean Gawker, who was paying for all of this.
At this point, I didn’t care. I was ready to just walk away. “Well, we tried. Tastes disappointing, but isn’t that life?”
Caity: I was ready to die at that pavilion, fighting for my Lucky Combo.
Joy and I had a long discussion, confusing on both ends, during which we both agreed that Lucky Combos come with “your choice of a Soft Drink and an Ice Cream.” And that was where our accord ended.
At this point, we had paid a total of $27.24 for $22.09 worth of food. Then something truly baffling happened. Joy began to bargain with me. She acknowledged, first, that she had overcharged me. “I’ll give you another egg roll,” she suggested.
Joy...Why would you do that? I did not order another egg roll.
Rich: She said it like, “Maybe I’ll give you another egg roll?” Maybe if you put that in your mouth, it will make you unable to speak, and thus you will have shut up...?
Caity: If Epcot China is representative of the Chinese dining experience, when eating out in China, you pay an arbitrary amount first, and then are handed, without your input, various random foods to equal that total.
Rich: An egg roll makes everything better. Americans love egg rolls. Everyone loves egg rolls!
Caity: I guarantee if the only egg rolls people had ever eaten came from the Joy of Tea pavilion, they would not love them (though I did not know that yet). Also — pork and vegetable rolls cost $3.99. We would still have been overpaying. Joy would have had to give me like, one and a quarter and one sixteenth of an egg roll to be square.
Rich: I bet she would have, too. More egg rolls, less war. Put a little egg roll in your heart.
Caity: I told her “No, I’ll just have the difference refunded on my card, please.”
Rich: Haha, no you won’t.
Caity: By now, the line behind us was quite long, though I cannot imagine why. There are so many places to buy one of Earth’s most popular drinks at Epcot.
Rich: The guy behind us tried to interrupt this chaos with his order of three beers. Everyone ignored him.
Caity: I didn’t even hear him. I was deaf to everything except the words “I have refunded the difference. I admit that you have defeated me. I will give you no more egg rolls than the one you require.”
The girls had another private conversation as we looked on, helplessly. Then Joy’s friend pressed eleven thousand keys on the cash register, and handed me five one-dollar bills, a dime, and a nickel.
Rich: And so diplomacy reigned...kind of. Joy and Joy’s friend would satisfy your request, but only to a point. You were not going to leave that transaction happy. You wanted a refund on your card; the best you were going to get was cash. That was the girls asserting their will.
Caity: I also wanted receipts showing what I had been charged for; instead I got napkins.
Finally, then, it was time to sit down and eat the Lucky Combo for which I had sacrificed my youth.
The contents therein: ALL BAD.
Rich: After all of that, you sure worked up an appetite, huh?
I did NOT like what fell out of your bun.
Caity: It was allegedly “Chinese BBQ Pork” but it looked like twin fetuses at 8 weeks.
Rich: It looked like organs. It looked like you had dissected a bun that had been in formaldehyde.
Caity: It would have been better off staying in the bun, and the bun would have been better off sailing into a trashcan. The Curry Chicken Pockets tasted like four-times microwaved Indian food (Epcot has no India), though the sesame seeds on top sang of China. The Pork and Vegetable Egg Roll was the best savory item by far, which is to say: quite bad. It tasted, mercifully, like the packet of Panda Soy Sauce I dipped it in.
Rich: My Green Tea Plum Slush tasted like a Mountain Dew Slurpee. I actually wished it were more sour (and more alcoholic). (It was 11 am.)
Also, there was no discernible tea in it.
Our ice creams were served with limp-wristed spoons that were useless until the ice creams had mostly melted. The caramel ginger ice cream was caramel in color only, while the strawberry red bean had all of the grit of red bean ice cream and all of the taste of strawberry. They were OK. Still fun to have ice cream for breakfast, even if we had to really work for it.
Note that we did not receive tea, but then we did not experience joy either. Fair enough, I suppose.
Is Everything OK?
Questions About the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Caity: I would go back to continue our argument about my Lucky Combo, because I feel like I have more to say.
Rich: I would go back to die on the counter and leave them with a problem to clean up and dispose of. Revenge is a dish best served by a corpse.
Is it a good first date spot?
Caity: No. In addition to being bad, the food was the expensive kind of cheap. And we ate next to a trashcan.
Rich: You know, you could do worse. At the very least, the Joy of Tea workers will provide endless conversation fodder. “Let’s give ‘em something to talk about,” was probably one of the things that they said during their private conversations in front of us.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Caity: No. I have no doubt that the mean, vindictive employees of Joy of Tea Pavilion would do everything in their power to blow up your spot and ruin your life.
Rich: Yes. I think it’s a good place to have an affair if you plan on ending it with a Romeo and Juliet-style double suicide. Poison yourself on the food :)
Is it a good place to bring the cryogenically frozen corpse of Walt Disney?
Caity: Yes, because otherwise he would just be lying in his grave rolling over and over like a hot dog on a 7/11 hot dog warmer.
Rich: Yes, because you would have to be dead to enjoy it.