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What Is Tiger Milk Tea?

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 stripes of thick brown sugar syrup lining the inside of the serving glass to give the boba tea a sweet flavor. Tiger milk tea can be created by combining 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 milk, brown sugar syrup, and boba pearls. 

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.

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, 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. 

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. 
  • 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.
  • Milk: Milk, whether plant-based or cows milk, is a key component of tiger milk tea since it gives the drink a creamy texture. 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

How to Make Tiger Milk Tea

Making tiger milk tea is easy, so you can have a glass of this tasty Taiwanese treat any time you like. Follow these instructions to make tiger milk tea like a pro

  • Cook your tapioca boba pearls according to the package instructions. This usually involves boiling the tapioca pearls on the stovetop in a saucepan for five minutes before draining and cooling.
  • Add brown sugar syrup to the saucepan of tapioca pearls and stir until the syrup is thick and dark. Reserve the tapioca pearls and syrup to a bowl and cool while you bring out glasses for serving.
  • Spoon tapioca pearls and brown sugar syrup into each glass, tipping the glass to allow drizzles of brown sugar syrup to coat the sides.
  • Add ice and milk before stirring the tiger milk tea with a straw. This will give the drink its iconic “tiger stripe” look. 

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. 

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 fatiness 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 shops worldwide. 

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

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