This was an invited tasting. Much gratitude to the hosts, organisers and fellow guests.
Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but if you ask me, the history of bubble tea in Singapore is one long story of featuritis. Not too long ago we had milk tea, with or without those wonderful tapioca pearls, and that was that. Now I spend almost as long at the counter deciphering the available options as I do actually drinking the tea.
Of course, most of you know about LiHO now – though more as a function of mourning for Gong Cha, whose outlets will be replaced by the local brand. But when LiHO came with an invitation to try their cheese tea, I knew nothing about that. I was slightly conflicted. To be honest, it sounded gimmicky – just another topping for tea. Except… cheese. Even if I was skeptical, I felt I had to find out.
And their unique selling point is like nothing I’ve seen before. The cheese foam is made on-site, with secret ingredients (we are told that Gouda is among them, which might explain the mildness). Order bubble tea with cheese and they ladle it on generously. Smooth and savoury, the creamy foam has just the slightest hint of tanginess as it tails off.
And as for the drinks? Yam smoothie is, unfortunately, a little too sweet for my liking, though swirling in the cheese foam helps somewhat.
I’m more inclined towards the teas. Hot Jing Syuan tea is a little brooding, with mildly bitter notes flitting in the background. Guanyin tea (pictured above with the yam smoothie), on the other hand, is darker yet subtler, and goes well with less sugar so the scent of the leaves can shine through.
But it’s the design of the cup that appeals to the newly minted UX guy in me. The plastic cup is sturdier, the cap solid, so an accidental squeeze doesn’t spill tea all over. The cap itself has a hole for a straw, and another to sip the cheese foam, Starbucks style.
But meanwhile, everyone is still mourning the passing of Gong Cha. That’s reasonable. I get it. I think I’ll still miss the old brand, sure. But given LiHO is replacing it, I think we may come out ahead.