If you haven’t tried tiger milk tea — you don’t know boba.
An international sensation from the heart of Taiwan, it’s a sweet twist on the traditional pearl milk tea you know and love. Made from a secret blend of proprietary ingredients, it’s often imitated but rarely duplicated.
You owe yourself a cup, but the lines to get one can be long. So in addition to telling you where to order one, we’ll also show you how to make tiger milk tea at home if you don’t have the time to queue.
What Is Tiger Milk Tea?
Tiger milk tea is a type of bubble tea that looks unique because of the stripes that are made by adding brown sugar syrup. It also contains the usual milk tea ingredients like black tapioca boba pearls and dairy cream.
The history of tiger milk tea is debatable. Like all good inventions, there’s no shortage of folks taking credit for it.
But the consensus is that it was developed by Ming Tsung Tang, entrepreneur and founder of Tiger Sugar. Introduced in 2017, it sparked the boba craze and inspired an entire franchise.
Now served in more than 40 Tiger Sugar shops in the US and abroad, tiger milk tea is a customer favorite.
Sometimes tiger milk tea is also called by other names including:
- Brown sugar milk tea
- Brown sugar pearl milk tea
- Tiger bubble tea
- Tiger milk bubble tea
- Tiger boba tea
- Black tiger milk tea
What’s in Tiger Milk Tea?
The original tiger milk tea contains fresh cream, brown sugar syrup, and boba pearls.
That’s right — tiger milk tea contains no tea. Since 2017, however, Tiger Sugar’s menu has expanded to include versions that do.
In our homemade recipe, tea is an optional ingredient. The way it’s poured gives the illusion of tiger stripes in your cup.
What Does Tiger Milk Tea Taste Like?
Tiger Sugar’s founder says tiger milk tea was inspired by Taiwanese desserts. Simple, they contain only a few ingredients, so the intensity of the flavors matter.
The recipe is similar to Douhua, a national favorite of tofu pudding bathed in brown sugar or ginger syrup.
Made with milk, brown sugar syrup and boba pearls, tiger milk tea has a similar taste and texture. Cold, creamy and comforting, it has a toffee ice cream vibe. It’s also quite similar to Okinawa pearl milk tea, which has its origins in southern Japan.
Only Tiger Sugar invests eight hours into cooking its syrups, and it shows. The caramel notes shine.
Where to Buy Tiger Milk Bubble Tea
If you want the original thing, you gotta go to Tiger Sugar shop.
Luckily this bubble tea chain is expanding rapidly in the USA and they now have over 50 stores across the country from New York and Los Angeles to Phoenix.
You can find all current Tiger Sugar US locations here.
If you want to try other versions, a similar drink called Brown Sugar Pearls With Milk Tea is one of the Chatime best sellers.
How to Make Tiger Milk Tea
Replicating tiger milk tea was mission impossible for the dozens of tea shops that tried. So far, only a few have come close.
There’s something about the ingredients, preparation, and presentation that makes it a very special drink. Franchise owners aren’t talking, so the best you can do at home is to create a similar version.
Here’s our step-by-step tiger milk tea recipe:
1. Gather the Ingredients
• A bag of boba pearls made with tapioca starch. You can make your own, but using store-bought pearls saves hours of cooking time without impacting the recipe. You can find them online or at Asian markets.
• A box of brown sugar. We recommend Muscovado sugar. The same as brown sugar in spirit, it’s less refined and has a more complex flavor. Dark brown sugar is a suitable alternative.
• Fresh milk, half-and-half or light cream. You can choose skim milk if you’re watching your calories, but the fat in whole milk products draws out the nuances of the Muscovado sugar. It binds to the volatile organic compounds, amplifying subtle notes on your tongue. Another option is to choose a plant-based option like oat milk.
• Black or green tea of your choice, loose leaf or bagged (optional)
• Plenty of ice
2. Cook the Pearls
Bring the recommended amount of water to a rolling boil and add the pearls in the desired amount. Different brands take between five and 20 minutes to cook, so review the instructions carefully.
Don’t skimp on the water, or you’ll end up with a mass of congealed tapioca. Adding a pinch of sugar to the cooking water gives pearls a sweeter flavor.
Taste test the pearls as they cook, turning off the heat when they reach your preferred texture. Dump them in a colander, and douse them with cold water to stop the cooking process. Otherwise, they will continue to cook as you assemble the other ingredients. Mushy pearls are a shame.
3. Make the Syrup
Bring four cups of sugar and two cups of water to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it starts to bubble around the edges, set a timer for one minute.
At the one-minute mark, turn the heat to low and continue to stir until the mixture reaches the consistency of maple syrup. Pour it into a glass storage container — we like Mason jars.
By volume, this recipe makes about two cups of brown sugar syrup. It’s a lot, but it’s nearly impossible to make smaller quantities without burning it.
You can opt for store-bought syrup if you only want enough for an occasional treat. But we think the homemade syrup is the key to genuine Tiger Milk Tea flavor.
It’s worth the time and effort to make it yourself. Refrigerated leftovers are good for up to three weeks.
4. Brew the Tea
Tea adds caffeine and an extra dimension of flavor to this recipe. Black is best, but green tea versions have their fans.
5. Assemble the Drink
Pour the prepared pearls and brown sugar syrup to taste into a large transparent cup — two to three tablespoons should do it. Place the cup on its side and roll it until the syrup coats the walls.
Add the tea, ice, and milk and enjoy!
Keep oversized straws on hand for on-the-go slurping.
There’s only one authentic tiger milk tea, but something doesn’t have to be the first of its kind to be amazing. Our recipe plus your flair equals tea shop-quality results.
Sometimes the nearest Tiger Sugar shop might be just too far away and going there is not an option.
So now you know where to buy tiger milk tea and how to make it home!
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