Bubble tea has seen some ups and downs in Singapore. The takeaway bubble tea shop first appeared circa 2001 and then, pardon the pun, the bubble burst a few years later when there was a surplus of chain stores, mom-and-pops ones, even hawker stalls. But now, the trend is back with a vengeance, the latest craze centred around brown sugar pearl milk. The beverage — a blend of fresh milk, brown sugar syrup and pearls — was created in Taiwan, the birth place of bubble tea, where customers queue for up to a crazy three hours just to buy brown sugar milk from Taiwanese bubble tea chain Tiger Sugar. The brand recently launched its first outlet in Singapore at Capitol Piazza to much fanfare and hour-long queues, with a second outlet opening this Saturday (December 8) at Chinatown Point. And suddenly, we see brown sugar pearl milk everywhere.
What’s its appeal? As it’s made from purely fresh milk with rich brown sugar boiled to a caramelised finish and no tea, this drink doesn’t contain any caffeine. It’s also very pretty — the brown sugar syrup trickles in to form trippy patterns in the milk. Drinking it is also a fun experience: some brands like Tiger Sugar recommend that you shake the drink precisely 15 times to blend its ingredients before sipping it, while others like Chinese bubble tea chain MuYoo encourages you to taste their warm pearls and cold milk individually to experience the contrast in flavours before mixing it all up. Brown sugar milk is also creamier and packs a higher sugar content than the average bubble tea, ’cos the brands offering the drink do not allow you to customise a lower sugar level, unlike your usual bubble tea order.
Considering that the Ministry of Health is recently considering a total ban or taxation on high-sugar drinks (Singapore has the highest prevalence of diabetes among developed nations), we wonder if the bubble tea craze here may soon see a clamp down. But if you're planning to sparingly drink only one cup of brown sugar pearl milk in the interest of health, we've made the choice easier. We tasted 12 brands from all over Singapore that offer the beverage — and ranked them from meh to yum so you can make that one cup count.
Caveat: due to the logistical challenge of gathering 12 different drinks in one place, some of them were delivered to us, some tapow-ed and brought back to our office, others freshly prepared and slurped up onsite at the shops. Without further ado, here are the results, ranked from our least fave to favourite (scroll to the bottom for #1).