Flaming the top of tiger milk tea

What is Tiger Milk Tea? Best homemade copycat recipe (3 Steps)

Tiger Milk Tea is a super delicious beverage that can be made with simple ingredients. Although bubble tea has existed since the 1980s, the new tiger milk bubble tea only became popular past recent years since 2017. What is Tiger Milk Tea exactly?

What is Tiger Milk Tea?

You may see it everywhere now, but the original brand that made Tiger Milk Tea such a popular drink is Tiger Sugar founded by Ming Tsung Tang in Taichung, Taiwan. After it caught the attention internationally thanks to social media, the Tiger Sugar brand started to spread like wildfire, from Asia to New York and Los Angeles.

Tiger Milk Tea has since been a popular bubble tea flavor and comes in different names. You can also call it Tiger Boba tea, Brown Sugar Milk tea, Brown Sugar Bubble tea, Brown Sugar Boba tea, Brown sugar boba drink, Black Tiger Milk tea, or Tiger Bubble tea. In Chinese, it’s called 黑糖珍珠鮮奶 or Black Sugar Pearl Fresh Milk.

These days there is so many copycat Tiger Milk Tea, you can find them in your favorite boba shop. You can also try Baskin-Robbins’ take on Tiger Milk Tea with an ice cream spin. Besides Tiger Milk Tea, you may also wish to try other Asian milk teas like Thai iced tea, and adding milk to green tea.

What is Tiger Milk Tea Made of?

The Tiger Milk Tea has a distinctive look. If you see the iconic brown sugar streaks of syrup on the inside walls of a cup of bubble tea, chances are that this drink you see is Tiger Milk Tea. This dark brown syrup is made of partially refined and unrefined sugar added to a mixture of cream, whole milk, and tapioca balls.

Not only does this give a caramelized sweet flavor, but this brown syrup also runs down the sides of the cup and forms tiger-like stripes making it look irresistible. The name Tiger Milk Tea comes from these tiger stripes.

The special thing about Tiger Milk Tea is not just the ingredients or the iconic brown sugar syrup, but the 8-hour method for cooking the syrups and tapioca pearls.

Recipe Ingredients of Tiger Milk Tea

Here are the following ingredients to make this popular drink of Tiger Milk Tea:

Homemade recipe ingredients of tiger milk tea
  1. Fresh brown sugar boba pearls or mini pearls made of tapioca starch, also known as black tapioca pearls
  2. Dark brown sugar for the sweet caramel taste and brown stripes
  3. Creamy whole milk is a good option, though you can go for oat milk, almond milk, or organic milk
  4. Fresh cream mousse for the creamy texture
  5. Ice cubes (your own preference)

How to Make Tiger Milk Tea (Homemade Recipe Serves 1)

Step 1: Cook Sugar Boba Pearls

For your convenience, you can get instant brown sugar boba from Orbitel O’s. They have been soaked in brown sugar syrup and made with a traditional Taiwanese recipe. You can have them ready in 30 seconds with a microwave oven or boil them for 1 to 3 minutes. They are also individually packaged in 6 packs, so you don’t have to open a big bag of boba only to throw them out when unused.

Otherwise, you can also get the black sugar flavor tapioca pearls by WuFuYuan, which are selling like hotcakes right now. They are not as instant, but you can cook them as fast as 5 minutes.

Start boiling 4 cups of water in a pot.

Then, slowly add a handful of tapioca pearls to the boiling water. Stir lightly. You don’t want them to stick together or break up.

Once the pearls float to the water surface, cover the pot and reduce to medium heat. Cook it for another 2 to 3 minutes. After that, turn off the heat and simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes or until they are soft enough to your preference.

Scoop them out and set them aside in cold water for 20 seconds. Then, leave them to dry in a bowl.

Set aside cooked tapioca pearls to let it dry

Step 2: Make Brown Sugar Syrup

Bring 1/2 cup of water with brown sugar to a boil, do this while stirring occasionally. Then simmer the mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes. It should now be a sticky golden brown syrup.

Add the boba to the brown sugar syrup. Stir fry the boba and brown sugar syrup to allow the caramel flavor to infuse into the tapioca pearls. Then, turn off the heat.

Stir fry boba or tapioca pearls in brown sugar syrup

Step 3: Make The Tiger Stripes and Add the Milk

Start scooping out only the boba and adding it to your glass. Then scoop out some sugar syrup and drip it along the inner sides of your glass. This leaves brown streaks that look like tiger stripes on the outside. Add any amount you desire. Then add more sugar syrup to your cup until just below the halfway mark of your cup.

Next, splash in the cold whole milk up to 3/4 of your cup and ice cubes to cool it down.

Then, top it off with some fresh cream mousse.

Healthy Substitutions and Additions

You don’t necessarily need to use the exact ingredients that the original Tiger Milk Tea contains. There is too much sugar content and a bit too creamy for my liking. Why not make your own homemade version? Here are a few substitutions and additions you can make:

What is a substitute for brown sugar?

You get brown sugar when you add sugarcane molasses to refined white sugar. You can use maple syrup as a healthier substitute for brown sugar. Although the color won’t stand out as well as dark brown sugar, a study in 2014 has shown that maple syrup can be a healthy natural substitute for brown sugar.[1]https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464614003077

Another substitute for brown sugar would be to use syrupy molasses in its purest form which can also be found in dark brown muscovado sugar syrup. Molasses helps to maintain healthy bones thanks to its good source of iron, selenium, and copper.[2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4950270/ It also helps to maintain heart health[3]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16028637/, stabilize blood sugar levels[4]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26410392/ and provide higher antioxidants than sugarcane juice.[5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6429268/

New Additions to Tiger Milk Tea

Besides substituting some ingredients, you can also make new additions. Such as adding black tea, Oolong tea, green tea, or matcha powder to provide some healthy properties to your Tiger Milk Tea. Although it’s called Tiger Milk Tea, the original version from Taiwan does not contain any tea and it is caffeine-free. Feel free to add your own tea bags to your homemade recipe if you wish.


1 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464614003077
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4950270/
3 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16028637/
4 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26410392/
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6429268/

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