The Ultimate Bubble Tea Extravaganza by Team Tam Chiak!
Bubble tea has consumed our sunny little island by the storm. When Gong Cha re-entered the market, we’ve seen some die-hard fans queueing overnight just to get a cup. Big names such as Koi and Li Ho see constant queues during the lunch hour.
With the growing number of bubble tea shops in Singapore, competition is fierce. Which brand has the yummiest signature drink? Or the chewiest pearls?
The writers at Miss Tam Chiak put over 15 different brands of bubble tea to the test, and selected our favourites. For this bubble tea extravaganza, we focused on the classic milk tea with pearls, and each brand’s signature drink.
For the classic milk teas, we standardised every order to be the same — classic milk tea with standard pearls, 100% sugar (if the option is available), and no ice. I know I know, you must be thinking “who drinks bubble tea with 100% sugar?” Nevertheless, in order to make a proper comparison across all the brands, sine some do not have the option to customise sugar levels, we stuck to 100% in the name of fairness.
Many of us would associate Blackball with shaved ice desserts. However, the Taiwanese dessert brand offers bubble tea too. The classic milk tea, “BOBA” Milk Tea ($2.60) comes with either black or green tea. We opted for the black tea. We felt that the pearls tasted like plastic, and had a medicinal pungency to it.
As for the signature item, the Fresh Black Milk Tea with Pearls ($3) had a strong tea taste, but that’s about it.
Bobii Frutii is one of the newest bubble tea brands to enter the Singapore market. This popular Taiwanese bubble tea haunt is known for its gorgeous looking instagrammable drinks.
If you’re craving for a classic milk tea, go for the Extraordinary Bubble Milk Tea ($4.50), which comes with brown sugar bobii pearls. You can’t choose the sugar level, but the drink wasn’t overly sweet. The pearls were chewy but a tad too soft for our liking.
We were recommended the Uji Snow ($6.50), which is a blend of hand whisked matcha, milk and original bobii pearls. The green hue was very pretty, but the drink was very bitter.
The brand still has an outlet in Heartland Mall, which is located near Kovan MRT station. The bubble tea offerings at Cup Walker are quite affordable — a basic cup of milk tea with pearls costs just $1.80. However, we felt that the milk tea at Cup Walker had a strong milk powder flavour and tasted like Lao Ban Beancurd.
The Caramel Milk Tea ($2.30), the store’s signature drink, did have a caramalised brown sugar aroma, but also smelled a little like Nespresso coffee at the same time.
Address: #02-00 Heartland Mall, 205 Hougang Street 21, Singapore 530205
Opening Hours: 10am to 10pm daily.
Each A Cup
There are many different types of drinks offered at Each A Cup. We tried the Milk Tea with Pearl (Medium: $3.10/ Large: $4.40), which wasn’t a very enjoyable classic. Some comments were that the drink tasted like cardboard or soup, and developed a weird aftertaste with every mouthful.
We were supposed to do a review on their signature drink, the Yakult Apple Jelly Green Tea (Medium: $3.90 / Large: $4.90), but the drink started to separate into two layers after sitting out in the open for a bit. Hence, due to safety reasons, we decided to give it a miss.
After its hiatus for close to six months, the brand finally returned last December. Many bubble tea lovers swear by the brand.
The classic Pearl Milk Tea ($3.20) has both cold and hot versions, so if ever a time our erratic weather decides to become chilly, you would still be able to get a warm cup of milk tea with pearls. Most of us could identify the brand from the distinct sugar taste. We liked the rich aroma of the milk tea, and a good balance of tea and milk flavours.
As for the signature drink, we got the Milk Foam Alisan Tea ($3), which was a disaster in a cup. The milk tea was pale looking, and oddly, had hints of cheese in it. It’s definitely not the most aesthetically pleasing, or tasty, drink.
Don’t confuse HeeTea with the famous HeyTea from China. These two brands may sport a similar logo but they are not affiliated.
The brand currently has two outlets in Singapore, one in Chinatown Point and the other at Singpost Centre. During our time of visit, the milk tea wasn’t ready, hence we were not able to get a cup.
However, we did manage to get their signature drink, which is the Peach Oolong Tea ($4.50). The drink tasted like diluted peach water, and definitely wasn’t up to the standards of a “signature drink”. The creamy tea had crushed oreo sitting atop, and that warranted a big “NO!” from all of us.
Address: #B1-147 Singpost Centre, 10 Eunos Road 8 Singapore 408600
Opening Hours: 11am to 9pm daily.
I Love Taimei
This homegrown brand launched its first outlet in Bugis in 2009. I Love Taimei claims to offer the “Best Pearl Milk Tea in Singapore”.
The Milk Tea (Naked: $2.80, 1 Topping: $3.40, 2 Topping: $3.80) came with white pearls instead of the traditional black tapioca pearls. The white pearls were springier and less chewy. We felt that the milk tea was thick but didn’t have a robust tea aroma.
The Sunny Island ($4.90) is one of the prettiest drinks that we had. The layered drink has an alluring sky blue layer that sits above a bright pineapple-yellow layer. However, when mixed thoroughly, the colour was a little off-putting. The drink is an ensemble of mango, fresh milk and butterfly-pea flower tea. Taste wise, it tasted like canned fruits, which wasn’t very appetising. However, the Mango Popz pearls were a hit!
Koi first landed on our shores in 2007 and has garnered a strong fan base. Many believe that Koi offers the best bubble tea.
The classic Milk Tea (Medium: $2.90 / Large: $4.10) was too sweet. Maybe it’s because we opted for 100% sugar, but the sweetness of the drink masked the robust flavours of the tea. Instead of black tapioca pearls, Koi uses Golden Bubbles. These chewy golden spheres had a springy bite.
As for their signature drink, we tried the Green Tea Macchiato (Medium: $2.80/ Large: $3.90). The drink had equally rich tea and milk flavours but it carried a rather artificial aroma.
LiHo first entered our market with a cheese milk tea series that caused much commotion.
The LiHo Milk Tea costs only $2, which is one of the cheapest in the market. An additional $0.50 is required for its chewy tapioca pearls, which we felt turned very clumpy after it sat out for a while. The milk tea also had a weird cardboard taste, which wasn’t very delightful to gulp down.
As for the signature drink, we tried the Cheese Jing Syuan Tea ($3.40), which came out looking very pale. Instead of a cheese aroma, we were greeted with tropical flavours of coconut milk. Guess we aren’t really fans of the cheese milk tea series!
Nine Fresh is a local brand that specialises in affordable Taiwanese desserts. The brand claims that most of the desserts are inspired by the Jiufen town in Taiwan.
Although they specialise in Taiwanese desserts, Nine Fresh has a small range of freshly brewed tea. That includes the classic Milk Tea with Pearl ($3), which was a bit too thin for our liking. It also had an overpowering milky taste, and the pearls were also too soft and mushy.
As for the signature milk tea, we had the Earl Grey Milk Tea with Pearl ($3), which is one of the cheapest signature drinks. We enjoyed the robust earl grey flavour, but the tea wasn’t sweet enough even though we opted for 100% sugar.
The Amber Tea + Pearl (500cc: $2.90 / 700cc: $3.90) has a fixed sugar level, but the brewed milk tea wasn’t overly sweet. Although it’s considered a milk tea, we tasted hints of cocoa powder and Horlicks. A team member described the tea as “the student that wrote out of topic”, which is indeed a good summary for what we felt about the drink.
The signature drink, Sijichun Tea + Fruits, is priced at quite a hefty $6.90. The tea is infused with a blend of fresh fruits, such as apples, lime and watermelon, so it has a zesty refreshing flavour. It is palatable, but not delicious.
Playmade’s pearls come in unique flavours. Think pink cactus, burnt caramel and even black sesame!
We tried the Milk Tea with Pink Cactus Pearls (Medium: $3.70 / Large: $5.40) and all of us enjoyed the chewy pink globules that had a floral aroma. However, the tea didn’t really sit well with us.
As for their signature drink, we had the Burnt Caramel Milk Tea (Medium: $3.60 / Large: $4.90). We expected a toasty, nutty flavour, but was greeted with saltiness, and most of us agreed that the tea tasted like miso soup.
R&B Tea, which hails from Taiwan, currently has only one outlet in Marina Square.
Their Golden Milk Tea ($3.50) was overly milky, with no tea aroma at all. Nevertheless, it was quite decent.
We tried the Brown Sugar Boba Milk ($3.80), which combines a unique brown sugar recipe with chilled fresh milk and warm, soft pearls. It really lived up to its name with its rich taste of brown sugar, and subtle pandan notes. The chewy pearls were a little too sweet for us.
Address: #04-101/102 Marina Square, 6 Raffles Boulevard, Singapore 039594
Opening Hours: 9am to 9pm daily.
Share Tea has 6 outlets in Singapore, and over 450 stores worldwide.
The Classic Pearl Milk Tea ($2.90) had a nice roasted aroma, but the tea tasted quite peculiar. Some commented that the drink tasted like plastic, others said that the tea had a seaweed taste.
As for their signature drink, we tried the Wintermelon Milk Tea ($3.20), which was easily identifiable due to the distinct taste of winter melon. The fragrance was delicate and sweet.
Besides milk teas, Teafolia also offers fruit teas which are colourful and pretty.
The House Favourite Stirring Milk ($4.50) is the brand’s rendition of the classic milk tea, and is packed with house-made pudding, finely-shaved ice and pearls with a drizzle of house-made sauce. We thoroughly enjoyed the pearls and pudding, but not so much of the tea.
The Signature Fruit Tea ($5.90) is really a sight to behold, and definitely is a contender for the prettiest drink award. Made with premium four seasons tea, fresh pineapple and assorted fresh fruits, this amber-coloured tea was not bad!
Tea Tree Cafe
Tea Tree Café has a total of 5 outlets in Singapore. The brand is known for its unique Roselle pearls.
The Signature Milk Tea with Roselle Pearl ($3.20) was overly perfumed by the roselle pearls. You can’t taste much of the milk and tea.
The signature Peppermint Milk Tea ($3.70) was way too minty and reminded us of mouthwash and toothpaste. Maybe it’ll do better as a post-dinner drink, to freshen the breath?
Woobbee only uses natural raw sugar that is unbleached and free from chemicals in their teas.
Their classic milk tea, also known as WB Milk Tea (Regular: $2.80 / Large: $4.20) was pretty good with a light fragrance of earl grey tea.
For their signature tea, we went for the unique Herbal Mint Pei Pa Kao Milk Tea with Grass Jelly (Regular: $3.90 / Large: $5.40). Similar to the Chinese cough and sore throat medicine, it has a strong minty medicinal aroma with a cooling effect. One or two gulps is okay, but consuming the whole cup could be an overkill.
Yuan Cha is a growing bubble tea brand in Singapore. They don’t serve the typical black tapioca pearls. Instead, they have a unique chewy yam-flavoured QQ Yam.
They named their classic milk tea ‘Black Milk with QQ Yam. ($3.90). We really enjoyed the QQ Yam, which were chewy and had a great taro flavour. However, we didn’t really enjoy the drink itself. The tea was a bit too “siap”, and there wasn’t enough milk to help mask the “siapness”.
We were recommended the Milk Tie Guan Yin with QQ Yam ($4.30), and all of us felt that the drink was a disappointment.
Here’s our top 3 for each category :
1. PARTEA: Amber Tea + Pearl
2. I LOVE TAIMEI: Milk Tea
3. GONG CHA: Pearl Milk Tea
1. TEAFOLIA: Signature Fruit Tea
2. SHARE TEA: Winter Melon Milk Tea
3. PARTEA: Sijichun Tea + Fruit
From the sheer number of bubble tea brands that we’ve picked out for this review, you can tell that Singaporeans really love bubble tea. There are so many brands and varieties to choose from. One thing’s for sure, bubble tea is here to stay.
Share with us your favourite drinks, and let us know if we’ve missed our on any noteworthy ones!
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visits and paid its own drinks at the stalls featured here.