Monday, May 20, 2019

Chatime, Syndey

Update Reviews, 2018 & 2019 Visits, Multiple Locations

Yes, I've gotten a bit obsessed with bubble tea, particularly since the introduction of "crema" or "cheese" toppings, which I adore.  Most of my Sydney bubble tea focus recently has been on fancier locations, like, zomg, Bubble Nini Tea, or off the beaten path classics like Original Royaltea, but in a pinch, I go for a chain like Chatime.  If you aren't familiar with Chatime, I suggest you start with my original review of Chatime.

Sydney Airport Location, 2019 Visits

Yes, I stepped off an airplane at the Sydney airport, fresh off an overnight flight from San Francisco, and literally ordered a bubble tea upon landing.  Let's just say, my body was confused, I didn't like my onboard breakfast, and I wanted "something to make me happy."  When I remembered that Chatime had a location in the airport, landside, I made a beeline for it once I got my bags and cleared customs.  I have no explanation besides that long flights can lead to crazy decisions.
The menu was the full Chatime menu, milk tea, fruity tea, hot or cold, with standard mix-ins and customizations.
I appreciate that the mix-ins are all visible, so I can impulse decide I want something in particular because it looks good.
Matcha Latte Milky Iced Tea with Pearls. $7.95.
Because it was early morning, and I knew I'd have a long day of jetlag ahead of me, I wanted something to give me a bit of zing, but I already had coffee (lots of it) on my flight, so matcha seemed like a good compromise, caffeine, but not as much as a coffee.  I was too worn out to make decisions about mix-ins though, and went super boring, just boba.

This had nice matcha flavor.  I really liked the matcha milk aspect of it.  But really, it was just matcha milk.  Not really that exciting.

The tapioca pearls were large size, and kinda hard.  Not stuck together, but I didn't care for the texture.  Not worth the $1 extra.

But decent for matcha milk.
Taro Milk Tea, 30% Sugar, Coconut Jelly, Rainbow Jelly, Mousse Original. Regular.  $6.25 (base) + $1.30 (jellies) + $1.20 (mousse).
A few months later, I did it again, but went the other direction: not simple, at all.  Yes, I crafted this at 7am.

I was met with so much indecision.  Wait, what did I want, anyway?  I wanted coffee!  Oooh, look someone has a yummy looking egg sandwich.  Oh man, did you see those pastries?  Yeah, I was all over the place, but stuck to my plan, and ordered a taro milk tea from Chatime.  

I wanted mix-ins, and remembered not really liking the boba, so I opted for coconut jellies, thinking coconut and taro would be a nice combination.  And then ... I saw the rainbow jellies, and asked for those too.  Really, had I been thinking, I would have realize the rainbow jellies have coconut anyway, and I would have remembered that I liked the pudding at Chatime, and like it with taro milk tea in general, but ... yeah, I wasn't thinking.

And then I saw a sign that said I could top it off with mousse!  Regular or matcha.  I asked about that, and the server told me it was like a foam on top.  That sounded great too.  So I asked for that.  She asked which kind, and I picked matcha, but then she told me that probably wouldn't be good.  I trusted her, and went for original.

The only real smart thing I did was opt for 30% sweet, remembering that I always find these drinks way too sweet.

It actually took a fair amount of time for my drink to be prepared, by the single staff member.  She wasn't helping anyone else though, it just had a lot of steps.

I was surprised when it was handed over in a different cup that I am accustomed to from Chatime, but, that was because I got the mousse, which is added at the end, so it can't be sealed like normal. The mousse was perched on top, not what I’d ever consider “mousse” but it was fluffy and rather interesting, almost cheesy in nature.  I think salty too?  Slightly savory.  I think I liked it.

Since I picked two kinds of jellies, coconut and rainbow, it was just way too much. My drink was like half jellies.  I liked both, but, note to self, only one type of jellies. Next time, rainbow jellies, and if I want something else pudding.  Ooops.

30% sweet was still plenty sweet.  I definitely wouldn't get sweeter, and even would wish for lesser, but I believe that was the lowest option.

As for the taro, there was not much taro flavor really, because, well, it is taro powder in black tea with tons of sugar, jellies, and “mousse”. What was I expecting?  To taste real taro?

I didn’t dislike this, but, I wouldn’t get it again in this form.

Delivery, 2018, Sydney CBD Location

The next set of Chatime drinks I had weren't actually ordered, nor created, by me.  They were from an event at my office, that had ordered something like 200 random drinks, to celebrate a launch.  And they had tons of extra.  I was excited to try more drinks, and used it as an excuse to try things I'd never normally order - a great way to find new things I do indeed like!
Chocolate Milky Iced Tea, With Custard, Half Sweet. $7.95.

This was, well, chocolate milk.  Intensely chocolately.  Very enjoyable, but not as amazing as the insanely good chocolate milk from Bourke Street Bakery!

The custards you can't see here, but they were hiding in the bottom, a couple large chunks of slippery, soft, plain custard.  They actually went well with the chocolate milk and were a fun addition.

Totally different, not what I'd ever order, and kinda like a dessert
Honeydew Milky Ice Tea, with Lychee Jelly. $7.95.
Well, oops.

I'm allergic to melon, so I'd never order this honeydew milk tea.  Luckily for me, my honeydew allergy is mild, unlike my watermelon allergy.

I took one sip, and realized I what I had.  This was very clearly honeydew!  Doh.

Unfortunately, I had already walked away when I broke into it, and didn't bother going back.

The honeydew flavor was fascinating to me in a black milk tea, very unlike anything I've had before.  Fruity, but bitter black tea, but milky.  Really different.

I did love the lychee jellies, sweet, flavorful.  I had to give it to a co-worker though, since I didn't want to risk my mild allergy.

2019 Visit, CBD Location

Ok, this one is just crazy.  I went to Chatime and got ... not a bubble tea.  I'm glad the staff at the CBD location were willing to humor me.
Strawberry Popping Boba / Custard Pudding / Mousse.  $2.50.
Yeah, this one needs some explaining.  Yes, I went to a milk tea shop, and just ordered a cup of toppings.  I wasn't quite expecting what I got, but, um, it was kinda awesome.

I was walking down George Street at night, after dinner, and after already having had a dessert (or, uh, two).  But I wasn't satisfied.  I wanted just a little something more to top off my night.  So I swung by the sole DIY froyo shop, thinking I could make just a tiny froyo, but, the only flavor I really wanted (taro) was really icy and tart.  I almost made a cup of toppings, lychee, boba, jellies, mochi, and more, but then I saw flies floating in the popping boba, and a kid stick his hand into the lychee, and I left, disgusted.

But I really wanted a cup of asian dessert at that point.  And I was passing by a ChaTime.  So ... I stopped.  The signage showed the toppings I kinda wanted.  And I had memories of that delicious mousse.  So I asked if I could be crazy, and just order mix-ins, just some popping boba (I picked strawberry) and the custard pudding.  The person taking orders smiled and said that she shouldn't really do that, but, for me, she would.  She said it would cost what mix-ins normally cost, plus $0.50 for the cup.  I said that was fine.  And then I asked if I could top it with some mousse.  She laughed at this point and said sure, she'd do whatever I wanted, this was fun.  She charged me for a regular portion of mousse, not a large.

Since ChaTime has only the regular and large cups, no small cups, I knew my order would come in one of those.  I expected just a normal size scoop of boba, a normal size scoop of pudding, and a little dollop of mousse on top.  I didn't expect the cup to be FULL, nor for it to be sealed on top.  And handed over with a bubble tea straw and not a spoon.

Heh, ok.  This was a bit difficult.  I actually just wanted to eat the pudding with a spoon, like, well, custard pudding, with some boba, fresh fruit and taro cubes I had in my bag, and, a little mousse to seal the deal.  Even once I acquired a spoon, and ripped through the top, there was really no way to do that.

But I still enjoyed this very much.  The strawberry popping boba were standard, generic, popping boba, but they were sweet, fruity, and burst perfectly with fruity goodness.  Exactly what I expected.  The custard was thick and rich, and totally what I wanted.  Sometimes you just want some pudding!  

And then the mousse.  Um, ALL the mousse.  I can't believe she filled the cup with mousse like this, even though she charged me for just the regular, not even large, portion.  I guess normally the mousse is the last thing added, and, well, they fill it up?

I still have no idea what that mousse is made of.  I probably am better off not knowing.  Because its pretty delicious.  It is fluffy, it is sweet, it is savory, it is slightly salty, it is kinda everything, all at once.  Its way way too rich to eat much by the spoonful, or to sip it, but when combined with other things (like, you know, popping boba), or, as I did later, taro dumplings (!), it was glorious.

Honestly, I'm tempted to go sometime and just do a big cup of more mix-ins.  Although, I feel like I'd need some kind of rice, red bean, mochi, taro, something like that to round out just all the sweet things, at which point, um, why am I not just going to Meet Fresh?

Original Review, March 2015, Westfield Mall Location

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 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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