This is a M.I.Y.O Monday and mini post rolled into one.
Note: M.I.Y.O. Monday stands for Make It Your Own Monday, a question thrown out to DCF readers every Monday to jumpstart the week with lively interaction. I also welcome questions and suggestions for future MIYO Mondays. Email me.
I get a sense of dé jà vu when I see the myriad bubble milk tea shops sprouting like … well, bubbles, around Manila. Chatime, Serenitea, Happy Lemon, and Gong Cha – all these trendy teas have their progenitors in Quickly and Milky Way, both popular in the early 2000s.
People have taken the time to explain to me their ardor for a certain brand and why one is better than the other. I’m amused and frankly, quite surprised at how proponents of a particular brand are so devoted – no, zealous over their chosen brand – and beverage – of choice. I listen carefully and note the animated use of their hands and the way their eyes light up as brightly as these tea places are. My tweet about trying Happy Lemon’s cult favorite, Green Tea with Rock Salt & Cheese gets a reaction from a friend: “@DessertComes1st: That’s a maarte drink. Try the Lemon Yakult instead.” Guess she’s not a fan. Neither am I. I taste more cream than I do anything else. And really, this may be tea, but with everything that’s put in there, it can’t be all that healthy. Especially if you get a daily dose of it.
Another day, I’m at Gong Cha on the urging of a recent convert. “It’s the best, the BEST!!!” Reads her text. “Better than ChaTime!” When I text her back that I’ve ordered the Matcha Milk Tea (Regular, 50% sugar), she texts back in all caps: “NO! You should’ve ordered the Milk Winter Melon Tea!” You see what I mean about the zeal of these people?
A friend of mine and a fan of Serenitea won’t even venture trying the other brands because “…I can’t have my bubble milk tea without my Chicken Chops. Plus, malapit sa bahay.” No wonder he takes his Hokkaido Milk Tea at 100% sugar – poultry and tea can’t be perfect partners, especially with pearls in there.
Bubble milk tea places are now THE spots to bang away on one’s laptop and while away the time, and sucking (through a straw) now trumps sipping (through a slit in a paper cup). Tea places are also the current places of choice, I observe, where BFFs sip and share their sorrows. They’re lucky; in my time, it was at McDonald’s over hot fudge sundaes, fries for dipping, optional.
The menu at any of these bubble milk tea shops are all the same to me: expansive and bewildering. With a few variations depending on the brand, there’s a section for Milk Tea, Smoothies or Mousses (in my experience, these are the blended beverages), and various specialty drinks labeled Special Mix or Energetic Healthy Juices. Because I like to make informed decisions, I ask for help in decoding the menu.
Three hours and a frazzled staff member later, I’ve finally decided on my drink and now I’ve got the easy stuff nailed down. I’m not hot about clogging up my straw or impeding my drink’s flow with pearls; no jellies (can’t care less if it’s grass, coconut, or rainbow); I’ll pass on the pudding; and please, I’ll keep the aloe vera in my shampoo and out of my drink. Chatime even offers an Ice option – Non, Less, Normal, or Extra, and across the board at all brands, there’s the Sugar option: at 0%, 30%, 50%, 80%, Normal (what the heck’s normal??!), and Extra Sugar.
Oy. Honey, I have a headache.
Tell me, what’s your bubble milk tea brand of choice and which beverage do you order? Come on, be specific, and maybe you can help me become a bubble milk tea convert too.