SINGAPORE: When homegrown bubble tea brand LiHO made its debut in the wake of popular chain Gong Cha's departure, two questions leapt to people's minds: How will the new brand stack up against Gong Cha's best-selling drinks - and what is this "cheese tea" that's got everyone talking - and grates on the nerves of some purists?
We headed down to LiHO's cafe at Bugis+ on Tuesday (May 30) to find out.
The four drinks we ordered were:
- Iced cheese black tea (S$4 for medium, S$5 for large)
- Warm cheese Jing Syuan tea (S$4.10 for medium, S$5 for large)
- Vitagen 'n' green tea (S$3.60 for medium, S$5 for large)
- Fresh lemon juice with kanten and golden aiyu (S$4 for medium, S$5 for large)
Fans of Gong Cha's teas with milk foam will be glad to know that LiHO's cheese topping is similar in texture and taste, though the latter's version is a tad more savoury. LiHO's cheese topping is also slightly fluffier, which made mixing the drink easier.
I expected the cheese topping to be extremely cheesy, but it tasted more like a light cheesecake. When consumed together, the beverage tastes like a very creamy tea with slightly savoury notes.
LiHO declined to reveal what exactly was in the "cheese", but a spokesperson for the chain said that gouda - a Dutch cheese - was an ingredient in the powdered mix. The mix is transported to each LiHO outlet, then mixed with other ingredients, such as fresh milk.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that LiHO introduced a warm version of the tea drink, complete with the cheese topping. While I ususally prefer my tea unsweetened, my version of the drink with 0 per cent sugar did not go as well with the cheese topping.
LiHO said Jing Syuan is a premium grade Chinese tea with a slightly bitter aftertaste, and recommended that patrons order it with 50 per cent sugar added.
VITAGEN 'N' GREEN TEA
This drink, which can be found at most bubble tea chains, tasted of childhood - with a tinge of green tea. When drunk cold, it is rather refreshing - suitable for Singapore's warm and humid weather.
While I would drink LiHO's version of this cocktail again, I've had better ones from other bubble tea chains in Singapore, where the green tea flavour is more pronounced.
FRESH LEMON JUICE WITH KANTEN AND GOLDEN AIYU
LiHO said its version of the drink stands out from the rest as it uses fresh lemon juice. Due to overwhelming demand, they ran out of kanten (better known as white pearls) during our visit - but my drink did come with aiyu jelly and two fresh slices of lime. This tasted like fresh lemonade, complete with little pieces of jelly with each sip.
Of the four drinks we ordered, this is my top pick as it is piquant and quenches thirst - great for a sweltering day.
Gong Cha fans may find that LiHO's teas do not taste as strong as the Taiwanese chain's. The cheese topping goes quite well with the teas we tried; it would especially appeal to those who like sweet-savoury flavours such as salted caramel. However, those who do not like milky drinks would likely not take very well to LiHO's cheese beverages.
Those who prefer classic bubble teas such as milk tea with pearls (S$3.30 for medium, S$4.30 for large) or peach green tea (S$2.80 for medium, S$3.80 for large) will also be able to get their fix at LiHO.
All Gong Cha Singapore outlets cease to operate from Jun 5, according to LiHO.