We love brown sugar milk tea for its sweet caramel taste, silky texture, and aesthetically pleasing colours.
Since its introduction, it's remained one of the most popular bubble tea flavours. Also known as Mudflip, Tiger Milk Tea or dirty boba, this brown sugar boba drink and its variations are cult favourites for a good reason.
Learn to make brown sugar milk tea in 4 easy steps and under 10 minutes. We'll go through some tips and tricks on how to stain the glass to make tiger stripes and a dirty milk tea look without any mess. We'll also show you how you can make the Mudflip version.
- What is Brown Sugar Milk Tea?
- How to make brown sugar syrup for milk tea
- Infusing tapioca pearls with brown sugar syrup
- How to make Tiger Milk Tea or Mudflip boba
- Cooking Tips
- Brown Sugar Milk Tea
- How Many Calories Are There?
- Make Okinawa boba milk tea
- Add tea or milk
- Other toppings that go well
What is Brown Sugar Milk Tea?
Brown sugar milk tea is made from 3 ingredients: tapioca pearls, caramelised brown sugar and milk. Despite its name, there is no tea inside brown sugar boba, and it is caffeine-free.
The original drink from Taiwan is called 黑糖珍珠鮮奶 (Hēitáng zhēnzhū xiān nǎi) in Chinese, which translates to Brown Sugar Fresh Milk.
However, as the drink grew in popularity and was commonly referred to as a "milk tea" overseas, more shops started offering the drink with different leaf blends and topping combinations. This is called 黑糖珍珠奶茶 (Hēitáng zhēnzhū nǎichá) in Chinese.
Some people also call this drink a dirty brown sugar milk tea due to the messy look of the syrup.
Tapioca pearls inside brown sugar milk tea are coated or infused with brown sugar syrup, while tapioca pearls are not usually covered in syrup in other bubble tea drinks.
Tiger Milk Tea
Alternatively, we've also seen some places market the drink as tiger milk tea. This is because the sweet brown syrup drizzled on the cups looked a lot like the streaks of a tiger.
What Is Mudflip Tea?
The Mudflip Tea is a YiFang invention and a fun twist on the original drink. Instead of drizzling the syrup on the cup-like tiger patterns, it is poured in and carefully topped with fresh milk.
Customers can flip their drink around and slowly watch the layers mix. The hands-on action and lava lamp effect made this drink famous.
Who Invented The Drink?
In 2017, Tigar Sugar became the first bubble tea store to sell brown sugar milk tea in Taiwan. Sweet syrup is drizzled on the cup to resemble tiger stripes, hence the store's name.
Xing Fu Tang is another bubble tea brand famous for this drink as they have a unique method of making brown sugar boba pearls in Taiwan.
You'll need 3 ingredients to make brown sugar boba at home: brown sugar, boba and milk.
We use dark brown sugar for our brown sugar boba recipe as it has a decadent and profound sweetness, mainly due to its higher molasses content. It tends to have a wet sand-like texture and toffee-like flavour.
There are also many different types you can choose from, and most dark varieties will work well in making our recipe. However, we have a favourite pick to use for our brown sugar milk tea recipe.
We highly recommend using Muscovado, the darkest class of dark brown sugar. It has an almost bitter sweetness and provides a kick distinct to brown sugar milk tea.
While you can buy Muscovado online from Amazon, it's only sometimes available in supermarkets. Muscovado's taste is very close to Gula Melaka, a type of dark sweetener, a crucial ingredient in many Southeast Asian dessert recipes.
You can make tapioca pearls at home or use ready-made ones for our brown sugar milk tea recipe. The key to this recipe is the syrup’s caramelisation level and how long the boba pearls are infused.
For ready-made boba pearls, we recommend using the Wu Fu Yuan brand. Their black sugar pearls are infused with sweetener, soften quickly and have a similar texture to store-bought bubble tea.
See our easy tapioca pearls recipe to learn more about the tips and tricks on making the perfect boba balls from scratch.
We use full-cream milk in our recipe for the added creaminess. However, you can also use full-fat or semi-skimmed for our recipe, and the taste will be similar.
If you're looking for plant-based alternatives, we recommend using oat milk for our brown sugar milk tea recipe. It has the thickest consistency compared to the other popular options without imparting a strong flavour that covers the syrup's caramel taste.
How to make brown sugar syrup for milk tea
You only need water and brown sugar to make a sweet syrup for bubble tea.
- Add both ingredients directly into a small pot, then turn the stove to high heat.
- Mash the clumps using a spoon to ensure they dissolve in the water. Once the mixture starts to boil and bubbles vigorously, turn down the stove to medium-low heat and let the syrup gently simmer.
To make 1 serving of brown sugar syrup, you need 1 tablespoon of water and 20 g of dark brown sugar. This is sufficient for 1 serving of 1 cup (250 ml) of brown sugar milk tea. If you're making a larger serving, then you should multiply accordingly.
Having said that, the process of making the syrup may get messy, so it makes sense to make a large batch and keep it in a sterilised jar. A large batch can last for 3 to 4 weeks in the fridge, and you can use it for other bubble tea recipes and desserts, too.
Infusing tapioca pearls with brown sugar syrup
You can infuse the pearls in brown sugar boba in a few ways:
- Adding the sugar with the tapioca starch when you're making from scratch
- Boiling them in a sugar and water mixture
- Slowly simmering in syrup
- Coating them in syrup
Out of the four methods, we found that the homemade pearls made with brown sugar and later coated in syrup gave us the most flavourful results for the least effort.
Slow simmering in the syrup alone also gave us very similar results. However, this isn't our top choice for making brown sugar boba from scratch for the time required.
Boiling the pearls in brown sugar gave us a mild sweetness, which we don't recommend.
How to make Tiger Milk Tea or Mudflip boba
Making a tiger milk tea is all about the aesthetic presentation.
Add a few tablespoons of syrup to the side of the glass to make the tiger stripe patterns in tiger milk tea. To make this more realistic, vary the amount and the placement of the syrup on the glass. Let it slowly drip to the bottom.
Then, add the rest of your toppings to complete your brown sugar milk tea drink. We like to add a bit more tapioca pearls at the top too.
For the Mudflip tea version of this drink, we recommend adding a bit more water or allowing the syrup to caramelise for a shorter time for a runnier consistency. Then, using a mason jar, pour the syrup directly into the bottom of the jar, add your tapioca pearls, ice and top it with fresh milk. Seal the mason jar tight and flip over to watch the layers mix together.
Do check out our YouTube tutorial video for a clearer visual demonstration of how to make brown sugar milk tea at home.
Here are some common issues we see a lot of beginners run into when making bubble tea at home.
How thick should your brown sugar syrup be?
If you're making only 1 or 2 serving portions of syrup to use immediately, we recommend only simmering it for 2 minutes. You want the syrup's consistency to be slightly thick but still runny enough that it will easily drip off the spoon.
Another way to test the consistency is by putting a drop of the syrup between your thumb and index finger. The syrup should feel sticky on the surface but not form a long string when you pull your two fingers apart.
Initially, we thought a thicker and more caramelised syrup would be better. The idea was that a thicker consistency would enable the syrup to stick to the glass wall better, and you would also get a more significant dose of sweetness when you sip the syrup.
However, a thinner and runnier syrup worked better for our brown sugar milk tea recipe. The runniness of the syrup allows it to drip better along the glass wall to create lovely stripe patterns. In addition, a thicker syrup may cause it to clump into tiny solids rather than gently dissolving into the milk.
Experiment with the consistency of the sweet syrup. Try adding more water or letting it simmer for longer. This will give you a different consistency and vary the syrup's appearance and taste.
The syrup will naturally dissolve as you assemble the drink and stir. We suggest lowering your toppings like tapioca pearls, ice and fresh milk slower and more gently. This will help you keep the stain on the glass for longer.
Using crushed ice will also help as you will reduce the contact of the creamer touching the stain directly.
For the aesthetic look, we recommend only assembling the drink when you’re about to drink it and keeping each part separate until then.
Brown Sugar Milk Tea
Brown Sugar Milk Tea
- 40 g brown sugar
- 30 ml water
- 600 ml fresh milk
- 100 g tapioca starch
- 60 ml water
- 50 g brown sugar
- In a pot, add 60ml of water and brown sugar. Allow this to boil and mix well. Then add half of the tapioca starch and mix well. Take the mixture off the heat and add the rest of the starch flour.
- Take the dough mixture and shape evenly into a ball. Add more starch flour if the mixture is sticking to your hand. Roll this out to 2-3cm thick and cut into small squares. Roll these into ball shapes.
- On high heat, boil the tapioca pearls for around 6-8 minutes. Or until they begin the emerge from the water. Remove from the water and set aside in an ice bath.
- Add 30ml of water and dark brown sugar in a pot. Allow this to boil and wait for the consistency to become a thick, translucent brown. Then, on low heat, simmer the syrup for 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool and thicken further. Coat your tapioca pearls in this mixture and take them out to set aside.
- Add the syrup to the side of the glass and let it drip to the bottom for the tiger stripe to look more realistic. Then, add the tapioca pearls, crushed ice and fresh milk to complete.For the Mudflip tea version of this drink, use a mason jar with a lid to serve. Pour the brown sugar syrup directly into the bottom of the jar and top with fresh milk.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and is only a rough estimate.
How Many Calories Are There?
Brown sugar milk tea typically has 620 calories per 700ml. For our recipe, as we're making a smaller quantity, it is 523 calories.
Although some people consider this drink healthier than a classic boba drink, the fresh milk and a large amount of sweetener make this drink high in calories. If you're curious about more calories, look at our research on boba calories.
Here are some of the top variations you can do with this recipe.
Make Okinawa boba milk tea
If you can get your hands on Japanese kokuto sugar, you can turn our brown sugar milk tea recipe into Okinawa boba milk tea. Kokuto has a distinctive light caramel taste, bringing a different twist to this familiar drink.
Add tea or milk
Adding a loose-leaf blend to the fresh milk can add depth to your drink. We recommend starting with Assam, Jasmine or Oolong to make a roasted milk tea flavour. We recommend cooling the hot mixture before you assemble the drink. Otherwise, the sweet brown syrup will melt almost immediately.
Typically, creamy drinks will work well. However, we don't think brown sugar boba works with fruit-based drinks as the caramel taste tends to clash with the fruit's natural sweetness.
Other toppings that go well
We love how these give a chewy texture and make drinking more fun. One gives you a more neutral taste, while the other gives you a nice caffeine boost.
If you're looking to go the extra mile with your home invention, we highly recommend making your own salted cream mousse or cheese foam to add on top. Alternatively, sprinkle a generous amount of sugar on top and torch this to make a fun creme brulee layer.
With a strong craze for everything boba-related, there are many things you can make with this recipe as a base. Let us know if you try out making this delicious drink at home. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more easy drink recipes.