Tightened Covid-19 circuit breaker measures to stay for another week but your favourite bubble tea could still be available

Koi teamed up with online restaurant Grain to offer bubble tea through its delivery service.
Koi teamed up with online restaurant Grain to offer bubble tea through its delivery service. PHOTO: GRAIN
Bubble tea outlets such as Playmade at PLQ Mall (above) and iTea at Tampines Street 81 on April 21 were overwhelmed after more businesses were told to temporarily close at 11.59pm the same day. Koi teamed up with online restaurant Grain to offer bubble te
Bubble tea outlets such as Playmade at PLQ Mall (above) and iTea at Tampines Street 81 on April 21 were overwhelmed after more businesses were told to temporarily close at 11.59pm the same day. Koi teamed up with online restaurant Grain to offer bubble tea through its delivery service.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE, ARIFFIN JAMAR
Bubble tea outlets such as Playmade at PLQ Mall and iTea at Tampines Street 81 (above) on April 21 were overwhelmed after more businesses were told to temporarily close at 11.59pm the same day. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE, ARIFFIN JAMAR
Bubble tea outlets such as Playmade at PLQ Mall and iTea at Tampines Street 81 (above) on April 21 were overwhelmed after more businesses were told to temporarily close at 11.59pm the same day. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE, ARIFFIN JAMAR

What do you do when you are a bubble tea chain and your outlets have to be shut temporarily?

You team up with eateries and continue offering the drinks through their delivery service.

While you can still get the pearl-laden drinks - albeit from a limited menu - via food delivery platforms, the big chains have brewed collaborations with other food and beverage players to reach more customers.

There is a catch: you cannot just order bubble tea. It has to be an add-on to at least one food item from the eatery.

The partnerships include Milksha and Yum Cha Express, the delivery arm of dim sum chain Yum Cha Restaurants, as well as Xing Fu Tang and fish soup outlet The Fish Hut.

Gong Cha is working with social enterprise cafe Professor Brawn's Redhill outlet and local burger brand Wolf Burgers.

Besides Foodpanda and GrabFood, Chicha San Chen's drinks are also available via roast chicken delivery service Kemono.

Last Monday, Koi and online restaurant Grain announced their partnership and it appears customers have been lapping it up.

A Grain spokesman says demand has been high, with the drinks getting "snapped up within minutes" when stocks are released.

For the collaboration, Grain installed a bubble tea machine in its kitchen. For orders that include bubble tea, delivery is currently available only in the east and will extend to the west on Tuesday. The orders have to be made through Grain's website and app. However, island-wide delivery is available via GrabFood for orders with or without bubble tea.

Similarly, for Milksha, orders have been "overwhelming" since its collaboration with Yum Cha was launched last Thursday, says Mr Joseph Lim, 38, general manager of Sinpoint Holdings, which holds the master franchise for Milksha Singapore.

He adds that he was approached by different restaurants before picking Yum Cha. "We wanted to collaborate with a home-grown brand that provides premium yet affordable food with islandwide delivery."

Other bubble tea chains have leveraged sister brands that sell hot food.

For instance, home-grown brand LiHO offers its drinks with sister brands Gong Yuan Mala Tang and Korean barbecue restaurant Bornga.

Ice cream shop Emma Soft Serve peddles its Japanese bubble tea - the flavours are hojicha and kokuto (brown sugar) matcha latte - through restaurant chain Menya Kokoro, which offers islandwide delivery via GrabFood. Emma and Menya Kokoro have the same management in Singapore.

Meanwhile, Tiger Sugar, which had to shut its eight outlets here, now operates a stall out of Pasarbella, a gourmet food hall at Suntec City. Bubble tea shops located in food courts, hawker centres and coffee shops are allowed to stay open during the circuit breaker period.

It is no secret that Singaporeans love bubble tea. According to Grab, twice as many cups of the sugary beverage were ordered daily from April 7 to 21. April 7 is the start of the circuit breaker, while April 21 is the day bubble tea shops had to shut. During the same period, Grab received 31 bubble tea orders for every cake order.

It is no wonder then that a handful of hot food sellers have jumped on the bubble tea trend.

Taiwan fried snacks brand Shihlin launched its bubble tea menu last Thursday and sold more than 1,000 cups that day.

The drinks are available for delivery via sg.shihlindelivery.com.tw, Deliveroo, Foodpanda and GrabFood; and for takeaway at selected outlets such as Far East Plaza, IMM and Eastpoint Mall.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 03, 2020, with the headline 'Your favourite bubble tea could still be available'. Subscribe