While coffee is a necessity in Melbourne and tea relaxes me, bubble tea brings me copious amounts of joy. My addiction to bubble tea has been going on for years, and it surely is the way to my heart.
I can’t remember the first time I tried the Taiwanese-born drink. It must have been during my Uni year, but I don’t remember loving it then as much as I do now. In the beginning, it was just a rare treat of a sugary drink and in those years, I never craved for it.
Fast forward to my life in the tropical Singapore. I bought bubble tea occasionally, usually when my friends initiated it, to fight the humid weather. Then some years later, I moved to Bishan and tried KOI for the first time. KOI is the premium brand of bubble tea. It has smaller bubbles, a tastier base, and more varieties. Granted, it’s more expensive, but it tasted much better compared to any other brands I have had so far. It has loyal customers, surrounding it like a beehive in every neighborhood stall.
Eventually, after a few trial runs, KOI’s premium milk tea large normal sugar normal with vanilla ice cream became my go-to choice. It also caused my bubble tea addiction. A true and tested stress reliever, it soothed heartaches and cured headaches. On the weekdays, I would queue for it past 8PM and take the bus home while juggling it between two grocery bags. Other times, I would walk miles in heels with bubble tea in my hand. Meanwhile, on the weekend, Fafa has taken the responsibility to be my bubble tea supplier, usually as a bribe for something or another.
I realized I was addicted to bubble tea on the day when I couldn’t contain my jealousy seeing my colleagues bring it back after lunch, which they bought in the mall quite far from our office. I was pissed because they didn’t offer to get me one (they were from another department and most probably didn’t know that I existed, nor how much I love bubble tea). Still. Not cool. I sat there for an hour, boiling in this weird rage until I snuck out, took a taxi, and smuggled my bubble tea back to the office. After some time, I nonchalantly took it from the fridge, took it to my desk, and told my teammates that the other team offered to get one for me earlier.
There was a time when there was a bubble shortage at KOI due to some issues with the bubble supplier. Boy, oh boy, it was a mildly-panicky period for me and half of the population. I visited one neighborhood stall after with no success. It was a nationwide shortage. I tried ordering KOI without bubbles, but well it was just sad. I tried other brands as a temporary fix, but nothing could replace KOI.
So, I had to do what I had to do, I took a hiatus from bubble tea. Life turned monochromatic, and I couldn’t cope with work and life stress. Thankfully, not long after that, KOI came up with their own bubbles, in gold color. The universe balance was restored, and was even better because I was sipping gold bubbles. In short, life was back to being golden, people!
KOI was one of the hardest things I had to leave behind when I left Singapore, so much so that I spent my last days there having copious amounts of it, knowing I wouldn’t get it in Jakarta.
I stopped having bubble tea for almost a year when I moved to Indonesia. Then one day, I can’t remember who started it, but me and my colleagues started having bubble tea sessions at work, usually during closing week. I also ordered it, then, more because it was a group thing than just for the drink itself, after all it wasn’t KOI.
Then Che being Che, she found out that KOI opened a branch in Jakarta. Halle-freaking-luyah! We ordered it, and I was instantly back to my addiction. Thus, the weekly BBT in the afternoon session was born. We usually put our order in the app and less than an hour later, the office receptionist would ping us to pick up the order on her desk. Oh, how I treasured this memory! Until now, I could still see my whole team members’ order, from Che’s aloe Vera to Diana’s roasted tea and Anas’ burned coffee.
When I finally moved to Melbourne, I didn’t have too much thought of leaving bubble tea yet again as there were more precious things I had to leave behind, like my parents, super cute nieces, and ex-colleagues who had become like family to me. One day, though, due to work stress, I mentioned to Manda, my then-new colleague, how I wished I could drink bubble tea. And to my then-newbie delight, she brought me to ChaiTime near our office and bought one for me, without ordering anything for herself. Ever since, we have been frequenting ChaiTime on a regular basis and my work-stress level became more manageable.
Then Melbourne got colder and officially entered the winter season. I stopped drinking bubble tea and Manda noticed. I told her I am not a fan of cold drinks in the winter, and she told me that ChaiTime might have hot bubble tea options. Oh Manda, you were a godsend! Hot bubble tea made me cry tears of joy. Its heartwarming hugs were multiplied by a thousand. Have you tried the hot bubble tea?
My bubble tea saga and love for Manda reached yet another level when she brought me to Double Happiness and introduced me to alcoholic bubble tea. Mind blown!
I love bubble tea so much that I covered Hermoine the MacBook with bubble tea stickers and got a non-practical bubble tea bag. And I always make it a point to try the local version whenever I travel. So far, I have tried bubble tea in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Still, nothing compares to KOI. The good news (for me) is that I will be having my favorite KOI bubble tea tomorrow in Singapore. Whee!