There’s a new trend in Korea and it’s a specific flavor–Brown sugar. Everywhere has jumped on the trend, every single place that may serve a latte or a milk tea has their own version of a brown sugar latte from Gong Cha to Paris Baguette. But where did this trend come from? Most likely if the line outside is to judge, it’d be Tiger Sugar.
Tiger Sugar is a Taiwanese chain that opened in March in a couple locations in Korea. The one I went to with a friend is in Hongdae. Their specialty is a warm brown sugar syrup that gives the bubble tea a tiger look. Something they perfected after 10 years of research that made them a huge hit in Taiwan and allowed them to expand to Hong Kong and Singapore before coming to Korea.
There are options: Brown sugar bubble milk tea with milk and cream, with just milk, or and with boba and pearl or boba or pearl. Or you can get a brown sugar tea latte where you choose the bubble, sugar level and ice level. (like Gong Cha) These include a black tea base or green tea base for the brown sugar drink.
There are not as many options as you’d find at Gong Cha but they know what they’re good at making and they’ve perfected it. Now you may be wondering what’s a pearl and what’s a boba? Aren’t those the same thing? Well thankfully they have this handy example where you place your order.
Boba are probably what most people are familiar with. A medium tapioca ball. Pearls are similar but much smaller. My friend and I decided to just get the first thing on the menu which is a Brown Sugar Milk tea with boba and pearl and with milk cream. (4,900 won)
The brown sugar syrup is quite warm so despite how pretty it is you have to shake it at least 15 times before enjoying. (The most important step.)
I was a bit gentle with my milk tea because I have seen people shake their milk tea too quickly in excitement and the lid burst off. (In general I don’t know if it’s ever happened specifically at Tiger Sugar.)
After it’s mixed it looses it’s tiger stripes but the temperature evens out and it has a nice sweet caramel taste to it. I also liked having the two different types of tapioca as it gave a change in texture, however the combination did clog up my straw a couple times which I didn’t appreciate.
A quick note is that they do have some signs that say something about Korean environmental laws. But this just means if you order a to-go cup you can’t stay and drink it in the shop. The English sign doesn’t make a ton of sense but that’s really all it means. They do have seating and you can get your order to have in the shop with a reusable cup. They’ll ask whether you’re getting it to go or to stay. There is also a bar along one wall where you can grab a stool to sit in front of the pretty green fake plant wall or you can grab a regular table for four if they’re available. The fake plant wall was pretty busy with everyone taking pictures. Most people seem to order theirs to go and then take pictures in the shop before heading out. Which is what we did.
Tiger Sugar in Hongdae is open from 11am until 11pm, daily.