Tiger Sugar, a brand of sweetened milk drinks from Taiwan, is the new craze in the Philippines. Every one below 35 seems to want to drink it everyday, as evidenced by the super-long line of eager clients outside its one and only one branch in the Philippines (read a blog about Tiger Sugar here). Lucky for those of us working or living in Fort Bonifacio, as there are quite a few stores that sell similar specialty drink within walking distance. How good are they compared to Tiger Sugar?
But first, let us understand where the flavor of Tiger Sugar drinks come from.
Black Sugar, Brown Sugar
The black (or brown) sugar used by Tiger Sugar is palm sugar. We do not know for sure which variety of palm that the sugar used by Tiger Sugar comes from, but we suspect that it is from The sugar palm (Arenga pinnata), which, according to Wikipedia, is native to the coastal and tropical regions of Asia, mainly China and Indonesia. It is also the sugar used in traditional taho. The sugar is brown in its dry form. When mixed with warm water in high concentration, it looks black.
Brown sugar used in the Philippines, on the other hand, is made from sugar cane. In terms of flavor, palm sugar has a more complex and intense flavor of the palm in addition to sweetness, while sugar cane is the sugar commonly used for daily cooking.
Milk, or Milk Tea?
The Tiger Sugar drinks that people crave for are milk drinks, and Tiger Sugar uses fresh milk in it. It does not have tea. Fresh milk, even treated with pasturization (HTST) can be very sweet. It tastes better than UHT milk. but requires refrigeration. Thus, It is also more expensive than UHT milk. We cannot be sure if Tiger Sugar uses pasturized or UHT milk, but the drinks are priced similar to those that use UHT milk.
Boba or not?
"Boba" is the pronouciation of a Chinese term that means "giant ball". Giant tapioca balls or regular tapioca balls, there is no difference in terms of taste between them. For people who enjoy chewing the tapioca balls, they may prefer Boba.
branch 1: G/F, Wumaco Building, Bonifacio High Street, 7th Avenue corner Lane P, BGC
branch 2: G/F, Bonifacio Stopover Corporate Center, 2nd Avenue, BGC
Yi Fang sells three brown sugar drinks, Oolong pearl milk tea, pearl milk tea latte and pearl milk. Price starts at P120. The milk used is UHT, and tapioca balls in the drinks are small, but cooked with brown sugar, thus have a sweetness to them.
We ordered a brown sugar tea latte (30% sugar), and a brown sugar pearl milk (50%). Compared to Tiger Sugar, there was not enough syrup to form the brown lines in the milk, but in terms of taste, it is almost as good as Tiger Sugar. Another difference is that the milk in Tiger Sugar somehow tastes creamier that Yi Fang's, according to our tasters.
Many branches in the Fort, at least 2 in BGC, one in McKinley Hill.
G/F, Bonifacio One Technology Tower, Rizal Drive corner 31st Street, BGC
Bellagio Retail, Burgos Circle, BGC
G/F, Venice Piazza, McKinley Hill
At P180 per cup, Serenitea's brown sugar drinks are expensive. For good reasons though. It uses fresh carabao milk from Holly's, and palm sugar. The milk is so good that it is sweet enough on its own, in our opinion. The palm sugar adds a more complex flavor, eventhough the sweetness is not needed.
The tapioca balls are of medium size, between boba and Yi Fang's small balls.
You can choose sugar level for these drinks, but the minimum is 50%. After all, this drink is about brown sugar!
In terms of taste, Serenitea's brown sugar drinks are as good as, if not better than, Tiger Sugar, in our view.
branch 1: L/G, SM Aura Premier, C5 Road corner 26th Street, BGC
branch 2: G/F, Commercenter Building, 4th Avenue corner 31st Street, BGC
Called Marble Tea, Chatime's black sugar milk series has three drinks, a taho drink, a milk drink and a milk tea drink. We tried the milk drink and the milk tea. They seem to use palm sugar and UHT milk. The brown sugar flavor was intense in the milk drink, but muted in the milk tea drink.
While there is milk and brown sugar in Chatime's drinks, there seems to be a lot of ice in the drinks. If you like a lighter drink, then this is ok.
5/F, SM Aura Premier, C5 Road corner 26th Street, BGC
Tuan Tuan has a window that sells Taiwanese milk and tea drinks under the brand of The Dessert Kitchen for take out. They have two Boba milk drinks, Okinawa Brown Sugar Boba Milk (P128).and Matcha Red Boba Milk Tea (P128). We have not tried their drinks, so cannot give you any advice. What we do know is that the brand The Dessert Kitchen is famous in Taiwan and they have a lot of branches in Taipei alone.
Ore Central Building, 31st Street, BGC, The Fort
They use UHT milk and muscovado sugar, which is a brown sugar made from sugar cane. In addition to syrup, they also put granulates of the sugar in the drink. While muscovado sugar is unrefined sugar and therefore, like palm sugar, has more nutrients than refined sugar, its flavor is not as rich as palm sugar.
Since the shop is named after a mountain in Taiwan best known for its tea plantation, perhaps we should order its tea drinks instead of its brown sugar milk drink.
Coming soon: Dragon T
G/F, BGC Stopover Pavilion, Rizal Drive corner 31st Street, BGC
From its poster, this drinks stall is likely to offer brown sugar milk drinks as well. We will let you know when it is finally open.
As you can see, it is not difficult to find Tiger Sugar alternatives in the Fort. Although they may not taste exactly the same as Tiger Sugar, you can get your fix faster, and in some cases, the alternative can taste even better, who knows?