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What Is Tiger Milk Tea (Brown Sugar Boba)?

Tiger milk tea is one of the most popular boba teas out there, but many people don’t know about the origins of this delicious caramel-flavored drink. Despite its fancy presentation, tiger milk tea is easy enough to make yourself at home. 

Tiger milk tea is a variation on boba tea with tiger stripes of thick brown sugar syrup lining the inside sides of the glass to give the boba tea a sweet flavor. Tiger milk tea can be created by combining creamy whole milk, brown sugar syrup, and boba pearls. Traditional tiger milk tea does not contain tea. 

So where did tiger milk tea come from, and how did it get so popular? Keep reading to learn more about this delicious striped drink and how you can make it yourself at home. 

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History of Tiger Milk Tea

Tiger milk tea was first introduced in Taiwan by the Taiwanese boba tea company Tiger Sugar. Despite the name, the original recipe for tiger milk tea doesn’t contain any tea at all. While later variations on the recipe include black tea, the tiger milk tea sold by Tiger Sugar only contained fresh milk, dark brown sugar syrup, and black tapioca pearls. 

In recent years, this popular drink seems to be all over social media. And for good reason. This delicious drink is so dramatic, with the streaks of syrup lining the sides of the cup. Not only is it a popular bubble tea flavor, it’s also super insta ready.

Who Invented Tiger Milk Tea? 

Tiger milk tea was invented by the founder of Tiger Sugar, Ming Tsung Tang. The milky drink was first invented as a beverage to serve alongside other sweets in Tang’s Taiwanese dessert shop. From there, the drink became popular enough to spread across international markets.

tiger milk tea recipe
The dark brown sugar syrup stripes are what give Tiger Milk tea its name.

When Was Tiger Milk Tea Invented?

According to the Michelin Guide, tiger milk tea is a very recent invention since it wasn’t introduced to the Taiwanese market by Tiger Sugar until 2017. 

In a short amount of time, authentic tiger milk tea from Sugar Tiger expanded to Singapore, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  Since it is so simple to make, it’s now also whipped up by home chefs worldwide. 

Does Tiger Milk Tea Have Tea in It?

Even though tiger milk tea initially debuted with no actual tea in it, there have been several variations made on the original drink since then. Two popular additions are black tea or green tea, which are both added to the milk in the boba tea to give it a tea flavor along with the flavor of the brown sugar syrup. 

What are Other Names for Tiger Milk Tea?

Just when you think you’ve figured out all the names for Asian milk teas, boba tea shops go and change things up. If you’re confused but still want to order this beloved Taiwanese milk tea, here are some other names you might find on the menu:

  • Brown sugar boba tea
  • New tiger milk bubble tea
  • Brown sugar milk tea recipe
  • Brown sugar pearl milk tea
  • Black tiger milk tea
  • Brown sugar bubble tea
  • Tiger boba tea
what is tiger milk tea recipe
Tiger milk tea looks complicated but only requires a few ingredients.

Where to Get Tiger Milk Tea

Unless you live in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, or (most recently) San Francisco, you’ll have a hard time finding tiger milk tea for sale at a shop unless you have a local place that makes it. However, the ingredients for making your own tiger milk tea at home are readily available in Asian grocery stores and on the Internet. 

Traditional tiger milk tea is made of three simple ingredients: 

  • Tapioca boba pearls: Tapioca boba pearls are used in a variety of different boba teas. The boba pearls used in tiger milk tea are typically the dark brown/black ones intended for black tea boba drinks.  These chewy tapioca pearls really make the drink.
  • Caramelized brown sugar syrup: You can make caramelized brown sugar syrup by melting brown sugar and water together, but it also comes in a ready made version that you can just squeeze into your drink glass before serving. It gives this popular beverage its characteristic brown stripes.
  • Milk: Milk, whether plant-based or cows milk, is a key component of tiger milk tea since it gives the drink a creamy texture. This drink is delicious with creamy oat milk or almond milk. Some tiger milk teas also incorporate either black or green tea. 

Even if there is no tiger milk tea available commercially near you, once you have these ingredients it’s simple enough to make right at home.

Tiger Milk Tea in a Marketplace
Tiger milk tea was created in Taiwan.

How to Make Tiger Milk Tea

Making tiger milk tea is easy, so you can have a glass of this tasty popular Taiwanese bubble tea any time you like.

Tiger milk tea only has a few easy steps, many of which are the same you’d do with any other kind of bubble tea. Here is exactly what you need to do to make your own brown sugar caramel Tiger tea.

1. Cook the Tapioca Pearls

For one serving, add about 1/4 cup of dried tapioca pearls to a pot of boiling water and cover. They cook quickly (2.5 to three minutes).

Remove them immediately, dunk them in cold water, drain, and soak them in the brown sugar syrup.

They don’t keep well, so only make enough to use right away.

This is the exact kind of boba pearls I use in all my bubble tea recipes. If you have a local Asian market they should stock them, or you could order them on online.

WuFuYuan - Tapioca Pearl Black 8.8 Oz / 250 G (Pack of 2)

2. Prepare the Brown Sugar Syrup

This is my favorite recipe for dark brown sugar syrup. If you think you want to make more boba drinks, mix up a batch and keep it in your refrigerator.

If you can’t be bothered making your own, you can get pre-made brown sugar syrup that’s all cooked, thick and ready to go.

Brown Sugar Syrup, Brown Sugar Boba Syrup, Black Sugar Syrup, Brown Sugar Coffee Syrup, Boba Tea Syrup, Bubble Tea Syrup by Locca 12 Oz (Pack of 1)

3. Add Precooked Tapioca Pearls to Brown Sugar

Add 1/4 cup brown sugar syrup to the saucepan of cooked tapioca pearls and stir until the mixture is thick and dark. Set aside to cool while you bring out glasses for serving.

4. Assemble Tiger Milk Tea

  • Spoon tapioca balls and brown sugar syrup into each glass, tipping the glass at an angle to allow drizzles of brown sugar syrup to coat the sides.
  • Add ice cubes
  • Gently pour in milk, being careful not to agitate the contents too much.

The dark brown sugar syrup will give the drink its iconic “tiger stripe” look. 

5. Drink Up!

The tiger stripes in this drink don’t last for long since things all start to blend together as you drink, so don’t wait to start enjoying your tiger milk tea! Pop in a boba straw and you’re ready to go!

ALINK 12 PCS Reusable Boba Straws, 13 mm x 10.5 inch Long Wide Colored Plastic Smoothie Straws for Bubble Tea, Tapioca Pearls with 2 Cleaning Brush - Pointed Design

As you can see, there isn’t much involved with fixing up a delicious glass of tiger milk tea. You don’t have to brew tea or anything. Since boba pearls and brown sugar syrup are both available commercially, none of the ingredients even has to be made from scratch. 

6. Maybe try this shortcut next time??

I haven’t tried this product, but I just discovered you can get pre-cooked boba pearls already immersed in brown sugar syrup!

Then all you need to do is carefully drizzle them into your glass, add ice, and your milk of choice!

BOBA FIDE Instant Brown Sugar Boba Tapioca Pearls, 12 Packets of Black Tapioca Pearls in Brown Sugar Syrup for Boba Bubble Milk Tea Kit, Ready in 25 Seconds, Preservatives & Gluten Free, Vegan

How to Serve Tiger Milk Tea

Tiger milk tea is traditionally a street food, so it pairs well with other types of light snacks and desserts. Milk tea is an especially good pairing with fried foods such as karaage and French fries since the sweetness of the drink helps cut the greasiness of fried food. Spicy food is also a popular choice for serving with tiger milk tea, such as spicy tofu. 

Alternatively, tiger milk tea is a popular breakfast drink in the same vein as high-end coffee beverages at a chain store. So if you’re serving tiger milk tea at home, it’s a good idea to treat it as a decadent brunch-time treat or dessert. 

What Does Tiger Milk Tea Taste Like? 

Since the main ingredient in tiger milk tea that gives it flavor is the brown sugar syrup, this milk drink can be compared to the taste of a caramel. It may also have tea notes if black or green tea has been added as one of the ingredients. Overall, tiger milk tea is a very sweet drink that works just as well as a dessert. 

Tiger Milk Tea is a Tasty Sensation

Even though tiger milk tea hasn’t been a popular food item for very long, it has quickly gained a loyal following in the last several years due to its beautiful coloring and its incorporation of delicious Taiwanese dessert flavors. It won’t be long until this tasty Taiwanese treat will be available in coffee and tea boba shops worldwide. 

If you’re looking for another decadent tea drink, try this smooth and creamy matcha milkshake.

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