Bubble Tea, an internationally renowned and loved beverage.
Consisting of a delectable tea paired with chewy tapioca pearls/boba.
Originating from Taiwan, the fun drink started to trending and made its way across the globe gaining many more fans around the world.
Singapore was not immune from the expanding Tea fever. Within months, a mass of brands like KOI, Each A Cup, Woobbee, Share Tea popped up across our little island.
Within the sea of franchises, one made its way to the top, possibly reigning as Singapore's most popular Bubble Tea distributer. Gong Cha.
Most Singaporeans would have at least known of if not tasted of one of the stores products.
Debuting in Singapore in 2009, Gong Cha's rule has steadily increased without any sign of slowing down for the past 8 years.
On the 29th of March, a shock was delivered to Singaporean media outlets that all the 80+ Gong Cha stores in Singapore would be closing down for good and be replaced with a new tea brand named LiHo.
The man who introduced Gong Cha to Singapore, Mr Rodney Tang is converting all Gong Cha Outlets to his own customised brand, LiHo, which means "How are you?" in Hokkien.
Mr Tang did this with the goal of giving Singapore its own tailor made tea brand, he hopes to be able to branch out and bring LiHo to other parts of the world, placing a little bit a Singapore in each city and country.
I am an avid bubble tea drinker. (I'm pretty convinced that there is at least some of it flowing in my veins.)
Gong Cha was hands down my favourite tea brand and I would have it at least once a week.
Surprisingly, I was not entirely upset when the news of Gong Cha's death reached me. Rather, my patriotic spirit was proud that Singapore FINALLY had something... truly Singapore.
When a LiHo branch finally opened 10 minutes away from my house I literally made it a mission to buy myself a cup and like it.
I'm not sure if it was my sheer determination to enjoy the drink or if the drink was actually good but I liked it. Compared to Gong Cha, LiHo's teas had a stronger and deeper tea base which was not overpowered by the milk but was rather complimented by it.
I tried ordering 3 of my favourite Gong Cha Tea flavours from LiHo to compare.
Green Tea w/ a Cheese Foam Lid Top and White Pearls
Personally, I feel like this is one of the teas that LiHo excelled in far more than Gong Cha.
LiHo shocked and also grossed out most customers by introducing its newest invention, Cheese Tea.
While many people decided to stick to the regular teas that they knew and loved, there were also many adventurous individuals who rushed to get a taste of the interesting combination. This resulted in LiHo's limited number of Cheese Teas being sold out everyday island wide.
When I finally got my hands on one of the coveted cups of cheese, I did not have the guts to try it out and so I had my sister work as guinea pig and taste it first. I regretted instantly after my first sip and wished I had my own.
As I mentioned earlier LiHo's strength is its tea quality. LiHo's tea is so flavourful, any dairy added to it enhances the teas flavour beautifully.
LiHo's cheese top is exceedingly rich. When I got this drink, I took the lid off and sipped at the foam before mixing it with the tea. Standing alone, the buttery salty, sweet mix is very rich and I did not think that I would enjoy it very much.
However, once mixed with the thin and light jasmine green tea, the drink seemed to find a balance and blended into a most enjoyable summertime thirst quencher.
Classic Milk Tea w/ Black Pearls (ft. Soy Milk Ice Creams from Mr. Bean)
You can't go wrong ordering a classic milk tea with black pearl.
A lot of milk teas sold at establishments often made me feel like I was drinking brown milk rather than milk tea.
I had found it disappointing
that Singapore's thick, rich hawker stand milk tea (Teh Peng) was not integrated into most milk tea products sold at "fancier" stores.
Although LiHo's milk tea is still no where near achieving hawker milk tea quality, I would say that it was able to get closer to the standard by setting well brewed, quality tea as the base of all its drinks.
Kudos to LiHo, what a trouper.
Brown Sugar Milk Tea w/ Black Pearl
This drink was probably my most go-to order at Gong Cha, with the good reputation LiHo had set with the previous two orders I was eager to taste LiHo's rendition of it.
Though it was good, I would say that I was quite disappointed in it.
The taste of the brown sugar was too faint if not did not come out at all. In spite of this, it was very sweet making it hard to consume.
In order to finish it I had to dilute it with water which unfortunately thinned out the quality of tea.
I went back to try getting it with a little less sugar but learned that I couldn't control the amount of sugar in this specific product.
All in all, it is still a nice drink and if you have a sweet tooth I would highly recommend getting this!
To conclude, I would like to compliment Mr Tang for taking such a bold step to expand and share Singapore with the world. For what he has done so far, I would definitely say that he is doing an amazing job.
(Update! December 1st, The first Gong Cha store has reopened in Singapore!)
*Bonus: Classic Milk Tea w/ White Pearl in LiHo's Special Singapore Independence Day Cup Design