• Cathy Liu

A Guide to the legendary Brown Sugar Bubble Tea

Since its inception in the 1980s, bubble tea has become a staple beverage to the diet of almost every student from elementary school to college. The sugary drink, also known as boba, comes in many different flavors that appeal to its ever-expanding consumer base. While the most traditional bubble tea flavour is a mixture of Taiwanese black tea, condensed milk, sugar, syrup, and tapioca pearls, it is slowly being overshadowed by popular competitors.


One of these competitors is the acclaimed brown sugar bubble tea. It’s the drink that’s taken the Instagram world by storm; the drink that boba fans will line up for hours for, and one of the greatest drinks possibly ever created. Despite the alarmingly-high sugar content (around 18.5 teaspoons), I feel that everyone should take the opportunity to try this drink at least once. Sure it’s not something you want to be having every single day, but it’s also an unforgettable and aesthetic experience!


There’s no shortage of bubble tea stores in NYC with new ones appearing monthly. . For beginners, this can be a daunting experience of not knowing what to expect at each establishment. Each place has its twist, and it can be difficult to know whether you will enjoy it or end up never wanting to drink it again. Luckily, I’ve managed to compile this small guide.


To get started, I have researched four popular bubble tea stores that are available in both NYC and Vancouver, where I’m currently studying for the fall semester. If you’re also wondering whether I ordered the brown sugar bubble tea at every one of these places or not, the answer is yes. The four categories I focused on were price (in USD), pearl-quality, the taste of the beverage itself, and appearance. Without further ado, here my reviews and recommendations for brown sugar bubble tea:


COCO FRESH TEA & JUICE

Price: $4.59 (Medium) and $5.51 (Large)

Quality of Pearls: I found the pearls to be hard and somewhat difficult to chew. Even though the flavour wasn’t bland, it did detract from the overall experience because the hard texture made it so a lot of the effort was being put into chewing them. I also felt that they may have been sitting out for a long time (this can affect the texture sometimes), even though I had gone at about 3PM (they open at 12PM).

Taste of Brown Sugar Milk: The brown sugar milk tasted milkier compared to some of the other places. The milk used was fresh and flavourful; compared to it, the brown sugar did not stand out as much (even after mixing the entire drink). Even though it looks like there is a lot in the photo, the sugar seemed to be on the milder side.

Appearance: While the stripes did not have the same aesthetic as the photos on their menu, the general appearance was still picture-worthy. I could see the sugar and it contrasted nicely against the milk.

Additional Comments: I would recommend this drink to anybody who prefers harder pearls and milder brown sugar milk. The sugar is still there, but a lot of the taste does come from the milk instead. This may be more enjoyable to people who prefer a less sweet taste and don’t mind tougher pearls.


TIGER SUGAR

Price: $5.50

Quality of Pearls: I thought the Tiger Sugar pearls were soft, flavourful, and tasted very fresh overall. The pearls complemented the drink nicely and I thoroughly thought they were the best part of the drink.

Taste of Brown Sugar Milk: The brown sugar milk was also outstanding here. Though the bottom of the drink was warm (because of the pearls), the top part had a refreshing and sweet taste. The ratio of milk to sugar was well-balanced, and I found myself wanting a second cup after I finished it.

Appearance: The appearance of the drink stayed fairly true to the menu. Though I would have liked more sugar stripes on my drink, it was still aesthetically pleasing in my photo. The NYC branches seem to do a much better job at the stripes.

Additional Comments: I feel Tiger Sugar can be enjoyed by anybody. As their specialty is brown sugar bubble tea, they do a very good job of making this delicious drink. In general, all aspects of this bubble tea are top-notch and should be recommended to beginners and long-time enthusiasts.


XING FU TANG

Price: $5.97 (this was on the pricier side considering this store only offered one size that was still smaller than the others)

Quality of Pearls: The quality of pearls reminded me of the Tiger Sugar ones. It was also extremely fresh, and the flavour was sweet from being stir-fried in the syrup. The consistency was chewier than Tiger Sugar’s, but it wasn’t anything too concerning. The display window with the boba pan was a nice touch; I paid a lot of attention to their ‘stir-fried’ method which made it very different.

Taste of Brown Sugar Milk: The brown sugar milk at Xing Fu Tang was on the creamier side. The milk flavour was very heavy, and I almost thought I was drinking cream at first. The brown sugar sort of balanced it out, but it was still very rich.

Appearance: Xing Fu Tang was one of the most aesthetically pleasing bubble teas. The brown sugar stripes were very visible and it came out looking Instagram-worthy in the photo I took. The cup itself was very cute and made this drink different.

Additional Comments: I recommend this drink to anybody who enjoys richer brown sugar milk and a different experience in general. Apart from the boba pan, there is also a fortune drawer station where you can shake a box full of numbered sticks and open the drawer that corresponds to the number you get. Inside, the slip of paper you receive will determine your fortune. Hardly any other bubble tea shop, if any, does this, so this is worth trying if you want a high-quality brown sugar drink and your fortune read.


YIFANG TAIWAN FRUIT TEA

Price: $5.50 (Medium) and $6.00 (Large)

Quality of Pearls: The YiFang pearls were the softest out of all five; they dissolved easily and required no effort to chew. As their pearls are made in-house, I thought that they may have overcooked the tapioca because of the unusually soft consistency. The syrup was very thick too, which made the pearls taste as if they were soaked in sugar.

Taste of Brown Sugar Milk: This drink relied heavily on brown sugar for flavour. The milk itself was not very strong, and I had to constantly mix it to taste the sweetness. I did really like the blend between the cold milk and warm syrup; YiFang’s syrup was probably the warmest as the bottom of the cup was almost hot when I held it.

Appearance: The drink sadly did not accurately resemble the pictures. While it was brown sugar bubble tea, there were none of the advertised stripes and instead just looked as if they added the syrup pearls and then poured milk over it. The Moon Festival design on the cup was a cute touch though, and there was a giant Doraemon cardboard cutout in the store too.

Additional Comments: I would recommend this for the fans of sweeter drinks. The brown sugar bubble tea at YiFang seems to have a higher sugar ratio and taste than milk. The sugary pearls offer a lot too, especially if you don’t like chewy ones.



What's next?

Overall, each of these stores spins their own unique twist on brown sugar bubble tea. You can’t go wrong at any of these places, and it really ends up all being a matter of preference. That being said, it’s never too late for you to go and get yourself involved in the sugary goodness!


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