Customise your own tea and watch it get brewed from scratch, on the spot!
There’s a new addition to the slew of popular Taiwanese bubble tea brands that have ventured into Singapore recently, but if you think CHICHA San Chen just another one among many, you probably haven’t heard about it yet. CHICHA San Chen boasts a history of over 20 years since they were established in Taichung City, during which they have opened more than 200 stores in Taiwan and China. With this impressive reputation, the bubble tea chain arrives on our shores, opening its first Singapore outlet officially on 14 May.
Located in 313@Somerset, the flagship store is a lovely tea boutique that oozes modernity in its sleek, open-kitchen design with advanced machinery, while staying true to traditional Taiwanese tea practices. Also known in Mandarin as 吃茶三千, the brand seeks to create the bubble tea experience that you would have in their Taiwan stores. They have their very own tea mountains in Taiwan (we’re not kidding!), where they harvest their tea leaves and other ingredients. They also harvest many ingredients from Taiwan farms.
Flying the ingredients over from Taiwan to Singapore doesn’t detract from the freshness of the teas, because each individual tea is made fresh upon order, beginning from the most basic stage of brewing the pure tea leaves. The tea bases are brewed in a high-tech machine very similar to the kind used to make espressos – and indeed the machine is called a Teapresso machine.
First, the staff measures out the amount of tea leaves needed, and the base is ready within a minute thanks to the machine! Next, it gets passed on to other stations where the staff concoct the flavouring that was ordered, and mix it up with the tea base. Like the first stage, preparation is precise and meticulous by the very amount of time, water temperature and tea-to-water ratio that is required for each tea order.
And what possible tea orders are there at CHICHA San Chen? Let’s get down to the real business now – the teas!
One of the many things that makes CHICHA San Chen stand out is its awesome customisable drinks menu. We’re not just talking about adjusting the sugar level to your liking – which they offer too, at 100%, 50% or no sugar. We’re talking about the whole shebang of what specific combination of tea base, flavours and toppings.
You’ve got milk tea, fruit tea, and even pure tea to choose from. The tea leaf bases available are Green Tea, Osmanthus Oolong Tea, High Mountain Pouchong Tea, plain Black Tea, Dong Ding Oolong Tea, and Cassia Black Tea. Make it a milk tea by adding fresh milk to any of the bases, or give the milk tea an upgrade by mixing your preferred base with cream or mousse! You can also have fruit tea by selecting green lemon, passion fruit or mango to go with a base. If you’re watching your sugar levels, opt for honey as your flavouring – no extra sugar will be added and the sweetness of your honey can be adjusted just like the sugar. Each flavouring is an $1 or $1.50 on top of the $3.20 tea base (if you get pure tea, it costs $3.20).
As for the toppings, there’s some variety too. Besides the usual bubble tapioca pearls, there is also grass jelly, coconut jelly and konjac jelly (each topping at $0.50 or $1) to give you a bit to chew on with your tea. Finally, you can even choose your ice level, from normal ice to less ice to hot. Yup, if a cold cup of bubble tea is too much for an early morning, you could enjoy a warm cup!
If you need some help and recommendations to customise your drink, the staff at CHICHA San Chen are not only friendly and eager to assist, but also very knowledgeable about teas. The menu also offers basic suggestions by making clear what tea bases are good or not so good for fruit teas. There’s also a list of recommended and bestselling combinations, which includes the Bubble Milk Tea ($4.20), Fresh Milk With Brown Sugar Bubble ($5), and High Mountain Pouchong Tea With Lemon Juice ($4.20).
The tapioca pearls are a popular topping for their unique taste as well as pretty appearance in a cup. The pearls are made in Taiwan and then freshly cooked in the Singapore outlet, layered in caramel for extra sweetness. What’s more, they are also extra large, about 1.5 times bigger than the usual pearls you get from bubble tea brands!
We tried the Osmanthus Oolong Tea with passion fruit and a generous serving of chunky grass jelly (which amounts to a total of $4.70). Even without any sugar at all, there’s a natural sweetness that’s just nice from the passion fruit. We could also still taste the floral fruitiness of the tea, the actual fruit not overpowering it. It’s a light, refreshing tea to enjoy especially on a warm day.
Also on our order is the Dong Ding Oolong Tea with honey and grass jelly ($5.20). We definitely recommend trying the Dong Ding Oolong Tea base – a famous and signature tea of Taiwan, the tea has a pleasant woody taste and aroma that makes us think of the mountains. There’s probably no place better to try the tea than at CHICHA San Chen. The bubble tea chain’s Dong Ding Oolong Tea was awarded with the Highest International Authority iTQi certification (International Taste & Quality Institute in Brussels). That’s akin to a Michelin 3-star standard! And as of now, CHICHA San Chen is the only tea beverage company to have this honour.
True to their traditional tea roots, CHICHA San Chen also features a tea appreciation counter beside the brewing kitchen. Huge tea connoisseurs should definitely pay a visit to CHICHA San Chen, if not for the interesting tea combinations, for this wonderful opportunity to learn more about and sample a special tea from Taiwan – Lishan Qingxin Oolong Tea. Pick your preferred roast level of the tea – there are five progressive levels from light to really dark and rich – and while boiling a cup for you, the highly trained staff explained in great detail about where the leaves come from and what makes the tea unique.
The great and genuine passion for tea is clear in the extra miles that CHICHA San Chen takes to make sure that their teas are not just fresh for the customers, but also properly appreciated by customers who know what goes into their teas. We suggest paying a visit very soon once the store opens, and don’t just end your experience with your tea order – immerse yourself in the amazing Taiwanese tea culture!
313@Somerset, 313 Orchard Road, #03-41, Singapore 238895
Opening hours: 10am to 10pm daily