Monday, March 16, 2015

Chatime, Syndey

It wasn't something I was exposed to until the past few years, but I've grown quite fond of bubble tea.  I haven't found any in San Francisco that I've loved, and I hate to admit it, but the mega-chain Quickly has been my favorite so far.

I was excited to discover that bubble tea was such a hit in Sydney, when I visited recently.  Like froyo shops in the US, bubble tea seemed to be everywhere, dominated by chains, like Chatime.

Chatime is a worldwide franchise, based in Taiwan, with over 1000 locations throughout the world, including 60 in Australia, and a slew in Sydney.

I selected Chatime as the bubble tea shop I'd visit, after reading a bit about it, mostly because they use real dairy in their milk tea.  My stomach often doesn't love non-dairy creamer, which is what most bubble teas shops use, so this is a big selling point for me.  They also use real ingredients to flavor the teas rather than powders.  The menu is focused around tea, hot or iced, including a variety of milk teas, flavored teas, and fruity fresh teas.  They also make blended frozen chillers, smothies, and tea lattes.  The standard add-ins of pearls, flavored jellys, red bean, puddings, etc are also all available.  They make a big deal out of the fact that you can customize the drinks extensively, not just the size or flavor or mix-ins, including the amount of ice and sugar.
Small Storefront.
The location I visited was inside the Westfield mall food court.  Large carafes of different teas were visible in front, but the drinks were prepared behind the small wall.  One staff member worked out front taking orders and delivering teas, and the other was hidden behind the window.  Service was friendly and efficient.
 Taro milk tea, 80% sweet, regular ice, plus coconut jelly.  $5.80.
I knew I wanted a taro milk tea, since I love taro, but I struggled a bit to decide what to add in.  I didn't just want regular tapioca.  I had a slew of other choices: aloe vera, red bean, malt, egg custard, and a slew of jellies (rainbow, lychee, coffee, and coconut).  I decided on coconut jelly, since I thought taro and coconut would go together well.

I thought that was all the decisions I had to make, but then I was asked how sweet I wanted it.  I had no idea how to calibrate my answer, so I said "not too sweet"?  My receipt read 80% sweet.  When I looked online, I saw the acceptable answers were "none - 0%", "quarter - 25%", "half - 50%", "less - 80%", "standard - 100%", "extra - 150%" or "double - 200%".  And then I was asked how much ice.  I said "uh ... regular?".  This time, the acceptable range was "none", "quarter", "half", "standard", or "extra".  I'm assuming I got "standard".

Anyway, I waited just a minute or two, and my order was handed over.

It should have been delicious, as it was clearly not fake powder, there were tiny bits of taro in it.  But the result was very chalky and I somehow didn’t actually really taste taro.

Even though I asked for less sweet, it was still way, way too sweet for me.  Even 50% sweet seems like it would have been way too much.  And I like sweets!  Next time, quarter sweet, for sure.

The coconut jellies were nice for texture, and my favorite part, but they didn’t taste anything like coconut.

A standard drink is $5.20, and the addition of the jellies was another $0.60.  Clearly higher than places like Quickly, but since they do use real milk and real taro, this isn't totally crazy.
Chatime on Urbanspoon
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