Image source: bubbleteasupply
You already know that bubble tea (aka boba tea) is a popular Taiwanese drink that combines tea, milk, sugar and a topping of tapioca balls (boba/bubbles). But lately, everyone seems to be losing their minds and waiting for hours in long lines for this new drink called "brown sugar milk" - what is this new concoction and why is everyone so obsessed with it?
Brown Sugar Bubble Tea? Brown Sugar Milk? Brown Sugar Milk Tea?
First of all, let's get the nomenclature right. The Brown Sugar drink you've been seeing all over social media is technically not bubble tea or milk tea. In fact, the drink doesn't call for tea in its recipe. If you're new to this craze and would like to try one of these much-hyped about drinks, you'd want to strut confidently up to the boba counter and order a "Brown Sugar Milk Bubble" drink. There are variations you can order, but we'll come back to explain this further down in this article.
Like its predecessor, the brown sugar milk drink was invented in Taiwan. The brand synonymous with this drink is Tiger Sugar, which opened its first ship in Taichung, Taiwan in late 2017. Tiger Sugar remains the top shop for those craving brown sugar milk as it quickly grew from Taiwan to open shops throughout Asia (Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.) and made its way to the United States in 2019. Each Yelp or review page for a Tiger Sugar shop usually laments a 2-hour wait in order to secure one of these drinks. It's almost become part of the experience.
Why Is It So Popular?
Even if you're completely new to the bubble tea game, chances are you've seen a picture of this brown sugar drink. With the captivating tiger stripes of caramel streaks inside the cup, brown sugar milk looks absolutely decadent and was basically engineered to be a hit with social media. Thus, it's no surprise that one of the secrets behind the popularity of the brown sugar craze is social media, namely in the form of Instagram. With a product that looks so good on camera, it didn't take long for social media to pick up the trend of the brown sugar aesthetic. Once it went viral, brown sugar milk drinks became a trend that everyone wanted to become a part of and have a taste of.
The 15 Shakes Rule
Another reason brown sugar milk has become so popular so fast is that those beautiful caramel stripes you wait so long in line and pay so much for disappears rather quickly after the drink is made. If you want to show the world how on trend you are with the brown sugar game, you'd need to take your pics quickly. Tiger Sugar recommends shaking the drink 15 times first before consuming it so the drink can mix well. Left on its own, the tiger stripes disappear/dissolve in about three minutes.
What's in Brown Sugar Milk Anyway?
Brown Sugar Milk is made up of three simple ingredients - fresh milk, brown sugar syrup, and of course, tapioca pearls. Tiger Sugar adds their own spin to the drink with a layer of cream mousse, so you can add that in as an ingredient too if you'd like. The tapioca pearls are cooked in brown sugar syrup to absorb the sweet caramel flavor. To achieve the tiger stripe-like effect on the cup, tilt your glass at a 45 degree angle and scoop the brown sugar soaked boba into the cup. As the boba slides down to the base, it leaves behind the streaks you're looking for. Repeat on all sides of the cup, add milk and ice, and grab your camera quick!
Variations on Brown Sugar Milk
Now that you know brown sugar milk is essentially all about the brown sugar syrup, you know that while the drink everyone prefers is brown sugar milk, you can definitely also order brown sugar milk tea if you'd like to add tea in your drink. Bubble tea shop owners are also creating their own versions of this drink, with Nolita's Bar Pa Tea introducing brown sugar milk with bits of shaved ice, and Spiritea in the East Village serving brown sugar milk with peach jelly instead of tapioca pearls.
So Is Brown Sugar Milk Worth the Hype?
What does brown sugar milk taste like? As its ingredients are milk, brown sugar, and brown sugar soaked tapioca pearls, this drink is very sweet. Out of all the bubble tea drinks out there, brown sugar milk is definitely the least healthy for you in terms of sugar level. By default you don't even have any tea to balance out this drink. In terms of taste, of course brown sugar milk is delicious. You should try it out at least once just to actually taste what all the fuss is about, but be wary of how often you indulge in this drink for health reasons.
Want better control over how much sugar you consume when you drink bubble tea? Try making your own at home today with our DIY bubble tea kit!