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Hulu Cat is by far my favourite bubble tea vendor in Auckland. Unlike other places which are either often average or hit-and-miss, Hulu makes good value fantastic-tasting drinks 95% of the time (the lacking 5% probably being a matter of preference).
With better tasting drinks, a little more character and a little less cheese than Momo Tea, its main competitor in the area, my main problem with Hulu Cat is that they’re always too busy! Many a time I have wandered in and every single comfy sofa and less-comfy seat was filled. But lucky me, they are just a brisk 5 minute walk away, and too many nights a week I run over, grab a favourite beverage and run back home to enjoy it in front of the telly. Props to the staff, whose simultaneous multi-bubble-tea making skills have been honed to robot-speed to cope with the volume of patrons. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for their food preparation, but that can be forgiven given that food isn’t their specialty.
As far as Asian eateries in New Zealand go, Hulu Cat hovers on the more creative side decor-wise. There is a cutesy kitty theme, yes, but it’s not garish or weirdly lit – just a bunch of couches and cushiony seats arranged in a social yet cosy-feeling environment. Chinese and Japanese comics, cards, board games and table games can be found lying around and are made full use of by the animated groups of young students dining in.
The drinks menu here is extensive. The only one missing from my long list of favourites is coconut milk tea. You will find cold and hot beverages, green and black teas, yoghurts and slushies and Taiwanese-style milkshakes. Take them with or without bubble tea additions, of which there is a very good selection – you can choose from the usual tapioca pearl, six types of jelly crystals (most stores only have one or two), egg pudding, taro pudding, chocolate pudding, mango pudding, “ai yu” (a lightly lemon-flavoured soft jelly), herbal jelly and even ice cream – and they have never been out of stock of any I’ve asked for to date.
Price-wise, Hulu Cat is one of the best value specialised tea-houses around. The two other bubble tea specialists within 5 minutes walk from me (Momo Tea and Feeling) both have prices starting from $6 for a plain milk tea, to about $8-$9 for a slushy with added jelly. At Hulu Cat, a plain milk tea or iced tea is just $5, slushies are $6, while drinks with toppings are an additional $1. Overall, the equivalent menu items cost $1-$2 less than the competition while their takeaway cups are actually larger than those of their competitors, providing double value in addition to (in my opinion) better quality!
I have never had a complaint about a single beverage at Hulu Cat. I’ve heard a few others say that they use a tad too much syrup in their single-serve drinks, but I guess I prefer that extra sweetness and often find bubble tea in other stores quite bland. You can ask for a half-syrup serving if you prefer a weaker taste. The only time I have ever been disappointed in a drink here is when I dared to try a flavour I suspected I wouldn’t like in the first place. As an added bonus, the drinks are rarely over-iced.
There is usually an excellent texture to the pearls, also – not mushy, not undercooked, just the right amount of gumminess and chewiness. A friend has, however, previously commented that the egg pudding was too hard (over-gelatinised?) the time she tried the Caramel Egg Pudding Milk Tea. I would say this probably varies day to day and hour to hour as the longer the pudding is refrigerated the harder it becomes, generally.
Personally, my favourite drinks range is what they call the “Creamy Milk” range – it’s a sort of light frothy milkshake with mostly tangy fruity flavours but somehow different from a Western milkshake in a way I can’t quite put a finger on. A strawberry creamy milk with grape jelly crystal is my current absolute favourite.
A fantastic item on the food menu here is the flavoured toasts. They prepare these super-thick slices of white bread in their mini oven while you wait, and they are smothered in a generous coating of creamy butter or flavoured spread such as coconut, chocolate and peanut butter. It smells amazing – a delicious snack at just $3. The only other food items I have tried are the kumara chips (crispy and browned on the outside, still soft and moist on the inside) and takoyaki (a long wait but a pretty good effort for a non-Japanese restaurant).
Just once have I had my order from Hulu Cat in the actual restaurant. One particularly chilly Monday night, we wandered in and ordered a pot of green tea strained with roasted rice – the aroma was just heavenly. The refillable pot is just $8, comes with complimentary nibbles (on this particular day, pumpkin seeds) and can be shared between two… although they didn’t seem all that thrilled about us doing this.
When you visit Hulu Cat, take your time and enjoy a hot tea for two on a comfy sofa – it’s an excellent opportunity for low-key conversation or just to relax with or without company. Or for a different type of experience, arrive with a big group of friends, commandeer a corner table, sample as many different drinks on the menu as you possibly can between you, add some fried snacks to the table and spice the night up with a game of Jenga! If you don’t like crowds, however, on Wednesdays to Saturdays between 8 and 10, just stick with a cold bubble tea to take away!
|Address:||28 Anzac Ave, Auckland CBD, Auckland, New Zealand|
|Phone Number:||+64 9 3771868|
|Opening Hours:||Sun-Thu: 12.30pm-12.00am