Taiwanese bubble tea seems to be making a big comeback in Singapore. Actually, it was introduced here more than 10 years ago. Suddenly, there was a bubble tea kiosk every 10 steps away, and people were queuing for a cup of frothy iced tea with chewy balls because it was the hippest thing to do.
Me? Well, I wasn’t hip and I didn’t like queuing (actually I’m still not hip and I still don’t like queuing). I like iced tea, but somehow never quite took to bubble tea.
What was so appealing about artificially colored and flavored water with chewy tapioca balls? Sure, those balls were fun to munch, but they were also tasteless and very filling.
It didn’t take long for the bubble tea bubble to burst.
A Taiwanese friend told me, “The bubble tea sold in Singapore is nothing like those in Taiwan. Over there, it’s really very delicious! They use fresh tea, and fresh juices to flavor the fruit-flavored tea. Even the texture of the tapioca balls is much nicer. Here, the bubble tea vendors use artificial flavoring and take no pride in the preparation, unlike in Taiwan, where they have very high food standards. No wonder all the bubble tea shops here have closed down.”
Fast forward to 2010: KOI Cafe is the overseas arm of 50嵐, a Taiwanese bubble tea chain that has over 300 branches in Taiwan. Yeah, it’s like the Starbucks of Taiwan! To date, KOI Cafe has 6 outlets in Singapore.
Several raving sources persuaded the skeptical me to try out KOI Cafe. Ooh, they were right! KOI Cafe’s bubble tea was indeed a refreshing improvement over the pathetic imitations I remember!
Hubby also liked it a lot. We tried the Jasmine Green Tea (S$1.90, medium) and Oolong Milk Tea (S$2.40, medium). Both were delicious in their own way. Jasmine Green Tea was light and refreshing, while Oolong Milk Tea was rich, smooth, yet not too heavy! Best of all, they didn’t have that icky, artificial scent and taste.
The tapioca balls had superb texture too. They struck the right balance between soft and chewy, and were mildly tasty. Also, they weren’t too big, which minimizes the risk of choking. Yes, that’s very important for me cos I’ve accidentally swallowed a few of them whole!
Another plus: You get to choose the sugar level you like. There’s 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, and 0%! I picked 100% for Milk Tea, and it was still ok for me. Hubby prefers his at 75%.
Compared to other bubble tea brands, KOI Cafe is slightly pricier, but I don’t mind paying a bit more for quality ingredients. They are also more generous with tapioca balls. (Click on thumbnail image on the left to view their menu)
This is the latest list of outlets they have in Singapore (image taken from 50嵐 website).