Header image courtesy of George Zheng (via Unsplash) and Mr. Aekalak Chiamcharoen (via Shutterstock)
Why are we so obsessed with bubble tea? Well, maybe because it has aromatic tea, fresh milk, and chewy toppings all packed into a 500-millilitre cup, not to mention the hundreds of varieties in colour, texture, and flavour. A popular choice among those varieties, the brown sugar bubble milk adds a depth of rich caramel taste to the plain milk base, with dozens of milk tea stores crowning this drink as their number one.
Amidst the many options in Hong Kong’s bubble tea landscape, we narrowed it down to just six of the best brown sugar bubble milks for you to choose from. People with lactose intolerance, be warned—read on with caution!
The master of brown sugar, Tiger Sugar is the tea brand that started it all, creating the iconic “tiger stripes” of caramel that drizzle down the insides of the cup. Bubbles come in two sizes here—the larger “boba” (波霸; bo1 baa3) or the smaller “pearl” (珍珠; zan1 zyu1).
You can stop at just the simple brown sugar bubble milk ($30), but why not add pudding, red beans, taro, tofu pudding, chocolate crunchies, cheese mousse, or mochi to the drink? If your stomach can’t handle fresh milk, swap it out with Vitasoy.
Getting your cup of brown sugar bubble milk after a long wait almost feels like a reward. Coming from humble beginnings as a street vendor at Taiwan’s Shilin Night Market, Truedan has grown into one of the go-to stores for Taiwanese bubble tea across the world.
Its signature brown sugar bubble milk with milk foam ($34) is a rich, creamy concoction that’s the perfect sweet ending to a savoury meal. Unlike at other tea stores, you can change the sugar and ice level of your drink (we highly suggest getting half sugar).
Local brand A Boutea clearly knows how to draw in customers by offering velvety-smooth tea-based refreshments and hosting fan events for K-pop and Hong Kong pop idols like Jin of BTS fame and Mirror’s Keung To. Its brown sugar bubble with fresh milk ($32) is the standard, entry-level drink to the brown sugar bubble line.
Even at a fixed sugar level, the sweetness is just right, with indulgent notes of nutty caramel flavour. If you like the sweet-and-salty experience of cheese teas, try the block salt brown sugar bubble with fresh milk ($34) instead.
All things cute and cuddly abound at The Alley, which recently collaborated with Sanrio character Pompompurin, a chubby golden retriever with a love for milk and pudding. The Alley decided to top its brown sugar Deerioca milk tea with a hunk of jiggly pudding ($46), although the price is a bit steep given its size. With chewy pearls, pudding, and lots of sugar, the drink is a caloric explosion—not that anyone’s counting, right?
If you have ever passed by Dundas Street in Mong Kok, then you might have seen someone rigorously stirring a batch of gooey boba inside a large double-ear wok. Most likely, that person works at Xing Fu Tang—the self-proclaimed number one Taiwanese tea store.
Milk tea lovers usually order the top brown sugar boba milk ($30), which has a dusting of sugar on top of thick milk foam that is blowtorched in a crème brûlée style. Since the boba comes straight from the wok, they tend to be on the softer side.
No shaking allowed at this milk tea store! Originating in Tamsui District, one of Taiwan’s tourist hotspots, Bubble Lee is a strong advocate for stirring your brown sugar bubble milk five to six times to dissolve the sticky syrup, instead of shaking the cup like how you would for drinks from other shops. Otherwise, the crushed ice would melt immediately and turn those bouncy, glutinous tapioca pearls hard, and we definitely don’t like that.
Dairy lovers can try the brown sugar bubble with fresh milk 2.0 ($33)—which has 30 percent more milk—or opt for the brown sugar bubble with milkshake ($33) for a refreshing drink during Hong Kong’s hot summers.