August 13, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Cuckoo for Puffle 

The puffy waffle trend made its way here from Hong Kong. Here’s what it’s like to eat it.

click to enlarge Kokee Tea in Carytown serves ice cream with toppings inside a puffle, a puffy waffle that originated in Hong Kong.

Scott Elmquist

Kokee Tea in Carytown serves ice cream with toppings inside a puffle, a puffy waffle that originated in Hong Kong.  

In the art of puffle ice cream, timing is everything. After bringing the concept to Richmond from major cities such as New York and San Francisco in 2017, Kokee Tea co-owner Andres Susilo knows its importance.

"If you cook [it] too much, the waffle will not be as soft as you expected," he explains.

These waffles, made of sugar, flour and egg — sorry to the vegans out there — are not the kind to pop into the toaster and hope for the best. Making each puffle cone to order is the key to preserving texture. While it can mean upward of a 10-minute wait, Susilo reassures that the warmth and freshness enhance the experience.

The puffle stands out from its waffle cone counterpart due to its soft, puffy texture, which offers thick pockets of edible bubbles rather than solely an accompanying crunch.

Fan favorites at Kokee Tea, inside the Carytown food court that's also home to Thirsty Joe's Draft House and Zzaam, vary. There's the Java Lover, made with a mocha puffle and topped with espresso ice cream, coffee jelly and cocoa pebbles and the Oreo Lover, complete with an Oreo puffy waffle, crushed Oreos and cookies-and-cream ice cream.

Kokee also offers seasonal specials for the holidays and the option to create your own. I opted for the Crunchy Crunchy, a chocolate overload that combines M&M's, Oreos and Pocky biscuit sticks inside a chocolate puffle.

For fellow Instagram enthusiasts, summer heat isn't ideal for the aesthetic shot. It's doable, but the puffle's container doesn't hold its contents in a way that prevents stray M&M's from tumbling down. Consuming the puffle is a marathon of sorts, a half-marathon if you've already mastered the art of eating past capacity.

"Separate Ways" by Journey plays overhead as the meal replacement topples over and becomes a taco. When the line "true love won't desert you" hits the airwaves, my eyes begin to water. I didn't want to desert this waffle in all its glory, but at this point, it feels as though I'm reaching mile 11 of 13. The Oreo crumbles are nearly gone and I have one Pocky left to go.

On cue, the vibe switches to "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC, egging me on — no pun intended — while taking me back to the days of college drinking games at a Sigma Nu frat house pregame. The remnants of the Crunchy Crunchy avalanche into a gooey puddle of scattered waffle bubbles coated in melted cookies-and-cream ice cream and lonely M&M's.

Seeing my strained face, Lee Chen, the other co-owner, asks if I'm OK before offering to make one of her favorites: the Matcha Madness, a matcha tea paradise with a matcha waffle, Pocky, Kit Kats and ice cream.

I politely decline. That battle is for another day.

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