Bubble tea brand sets itself apart with unusual pearl flavours
The love for bubble tea does not seem to be waning, with new player PlayMade entering the local market in September at shopping mall Tampines 1.
With more than 30 stores in Taiwan, the brand sets itself apart by offering unusual pearl flavours, like its signature pink cactus, burnt caramel and black sesame.
Franchise co-owners Amanda Poo, 29, and Crystal Wee, 31, decided to introduce PlayMade to Singapore after falling in love with its bubble tea during a trip to Taiwan earlier this year.
"We wanted to bring it home for everyone to try, and I can drink it myself too," Madam Poo told The New Paper with a laugh.
"I felt like the flavour was refreshing, especially with the fruit pulps in the tea. And for the first time in many years, I fell in love with pearls again.
"I actually stopped eating pearls because they were hard to chew, but PlayMade's pearls bring back the essence of bubble tea and makes you want to eat them again."
There are only three staff members in Singapore who are qualified to make PlayMade's pearls, , including store manager Kiew Kang Chan.
PlayMade's Taiwanese chief operating officer flew to Singapore to train him for a month before he underwent a stringent test.
Having worked at different bubble tea stores for the past seven years, Mr Kiew said having the passion to perfect pearls is vital.
He said: "As they are handmade, you need to be careful and focused as small errors can cause the whole batch to be disposed if they are not good enough."
Madam Poo said: "There are a lot of conditions to consider, such as the temperature or moisture of the air, because it will affect the quality.
Mr Kiew added: "Sometimes, the pearls may come out too dry or too moist so we will need to quickly rectify it."
He spends around seven hours making about 40kg of pearls to meet daily demand. So far, the most number of cups of bubble tea sold in a day has been 1,000.
Mr Kiew said black sesame pearls are the hardest to make as black sesame is oilier, causing the machine some difficulty in splitting the pearl dough up into the balls.
From blending the pink cactus flesh imported from Taiwan to creating caramel from scratch, PlayMade uses quality raw ingredients in its bubble tea, with no additives.
In line with the brand's inventive spirit, different countries have experimented and come up with different pearl flavours.
Australia has beetroot pearls while Canada has taro pearls, and there were even Poke Ball pearls - made of pink cactus, charcoal and white pearl dough - on sale in Taiwan during the Pokemon Go craze.
The Singapore outlet is offering a limited edition flavour, matcha pearls, until the end of the month, and will continue to experiment with new flavours.