Bubble tea first burst on to the scene when I was a kid. Suddenly everyone wanted bubble tea, and you weren’t cool until you guzzled it in downright unhealthy amounts. The craze died down for awhile, but appears to have returned with a vengeance. And Vengeance has a new name… Koi.
Koi Cafe is a chain of stores scattered around Singapore that sells bubble tea. It isn’t the only chain in Singapore – there are others like Gong Cha, Each-A-Cup, etc. – but it seems to be the most popular one by far. People talk about “Koi breaks” and appear to be more than willing to queue up for a taste of that sweet drink with its chewing tapioca pearls.
When I put out the question on Twitter asking my Koi-fan friends how long they had queued for the drink, they gave me answers that ranged from 20 minutes up to 45 minutes. Which, to me, is the timeframe of waiting for a doctor, not for a milky, sugary beverage.
As a kid I participated fully in the bubble tea craze until the day I found a bee in my honey milk tea, which was enough to put me off bubble tea for a good number of years. Recently I gave Gong Cha a taste; it was all right, but not life-changing. Yet I continued to be curious… what is so great about Koi? Why does my Twitter feed spaz out as friends go for “Koi breaks”? What is going on?!
Last Monday, I decided to try to give it a shot. Being unofficially allergic to crowds and queues, I specifically chose a time when I thought there wouldn’t be that many people. It was raining, too, which I figured would dissuade a few of the not-so-hardcore Koi fans. Therefore, I reasoned, I would be able to finally try that ever-popular brand of bubble tea, with minimum queueing, right?
WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG.
The queue stretched from the counter to almost out of the awning that sheltered people from the rain. Customers who had already placed their orders lingered by the entrance of the shop or sat in the waiting area (yes there is a waiting area) clutching their numbers in their hands like clients waiting for service at mobile service providers or banks. The Koi staff were running about, cups in hand, trying to catch up with the orders. It didn’t look like it was going to be a short wait.
My mother, the driver, gave me a look that said, “If you join the queue for this silly drink I will leave you here.”
Round the corner, though, I found another bubble tea store: 茶十二 (Tea 12). Their menu looked fairly similar, and – most importantly – there wasn’t a queue. So, determined to get my bubble tea for the day, I bought an ice cream milk tea.
It was sweet, it was cold, it was milky and the pearls were chewy, just as bubble tea should be. Just like most of the bubble teas I have tasted from the many different outlets I have purchased bubble tea from in my life. And so, although I didn’t get my chance to taste the “fabulous” Koi Cafe, I was satisfied. And I saved time.
Is there a bubble tea craze in your country? If not, what is the craze?
Are you in Singapore? Are you a Koi fan? Tell us what you think of it!