LiHo – Goodbye Gong Cha. Let’s Have Some (Fattening) Cheese Tea
Singaporeans woke up one day in shock to read the story in Straits Times that went “Goodbye Gong Cha, hello LiHo”.
You must realise some fans drink it almost every day, and can be considered their only-source-of-joy during work.
Gong Cha (It is Gong4, not Gong3 by the way) has been one of Singaporeans’ favourite bubble tea brand, and more than 80 of these outlets will be converted completely to the LiHo brand.
LiHo means “How are you” (Isn’t it ”You good!”) in Hokkien. On a side note, the little spattering of the dialect I know include ”Li Jin Ho” (You are good) and ”Li Ho Boh” (Are you good/well?)
I first discovered Gong Cha way back in 2009 at City Square Mall, hidden at a basemen corner, and quickly fell in love with their Alishan Tea, and Earl Grey Milk Tea with White Pearls. It was considered simple, unique then.
According to the man who introduced Gong Cha in Singapore, he felt “betrayed” by his business associates, and decided to build a home-grown brand.
The top picks at Liho include Lychee Jing Syuan Tea ($3.30, $4.30), Fresh Lemon Juice Kanten and Golden Ai Yu ($4.00 and $5.10), Golden Yuzu Juice and Golden Ai Yu ($3.70 and $4.70), and Vitagen ‘n’ Peach ($4.10, $5.40).
However, people are really looking out for the Cheese Tea, in which a foamy cheese mix will be added to the top of the drinks.
I was recommended the Cheese Guan Yin – it is tea, not the goddess ($4.10, $5.10), Cheese Jing Syuan Tea ($4.10, $5.10) and Cheese Melon Tea ($4.10, $5.10).
There are also Cheese Smoothies of Mango, Yam, Chocolate and Ovaltine ($6.90 each), if high calorie and sugar count have never been your nemesis.
The one thing I find very assuming is, there are many Office Ladies (affectionately called “OLs”) with salad in hands saying ”I am on diet.”, joining the queue to buy CHEESE tea. Perhaps having salads give them the legit excuse to ‘balance’ their meal with a sugared-cheese-drink.
Anyway, cheesy foam resembling the milk-cream previously used in their ”nai-gai” series are added to the top of the drink. The mix is said to contain Dutch gouda cheese.
You can choose to first sip a mouthful of the cheese then have a sip of the drink, or mix it all up.
Well, oh well, I kind of liked that touch of saltiness and creaminess which gave more body, but it felt like a very filling drink. *cues an hour workout at the gym*
An ang moh friend said it was disgusting and flavourful and fattening. I kind of agree (except the disgusting part). Conclusion: He actually liked it.
For recommendations, the Jing Syuan can be a good choice as it is a premium grade Chinese tea with slight bitter aftertaste. 30% or 50% should be a suitable sugar level.
I also had a Royal Milk Tea Guan Yin ($3.50, $4.50) as the server informed this tasted most like Gong Cha’s previous Alishan Tan.
To be honest, I missed that fragrant tea taste with slight bitterness – which was what made Gong Cha different from all other bubble milk tea shops out there.
LiHo Singapore Branches (as of June 2017)
1. Bukit Merah Central
3. Tiong Bahru Plaza
5. Ang Mo Kio Hub
6. Tampines Mall
7. Tiong Bahru Plaza 2
8. Bedok Mall
9. Changi City Point
11. Jurong Point
12. West Coast plaza
13. Clementi mall
14. Junction 10
17. Rivervale Mall
18. Hougang Mall
19. Greenwich Village
20. Tanjong Pagar Centre
21. Alexandra Retail Centre
22. Bugis Downtown Line
24. Cineleisure Orchard
25. Far East Plaza
26. One Raffles Place
28. The Centrepoint
29. Capitol Piazza
30. Asia Square Tower 2
31. 100AM @ Amara Hotel
32. The Central
33. V Hotel Lavender
34. Sentosa Beach Station
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Smoothie House (One Raffles Place)
NICEDAY (Tiong Bahru Plaza)
June 26, 2017