Price: RM13.65 (after tax)
I was first introduced to Tiger Sugar on YouTube. Some Malaysian guy was going around and trying all the different brown sugar milk teas in the city. Tiger Sugar got top marks which had me intrigued. Up until this point, I had been a staunch TeaLive drinker, which conversely got a shitty score in the video.
I immediately felt like an ignorant pleb. Here I was enjoying something that was apparently garbage. There was a much bigger world out there waiting to be tasted, and I had been limiting myself to one bubble tea simply because it was the first one I had tried in KL. TeaLive is the Starbucks of bubble tea: there’s no escaping them, there’s one every two minutes. So of course, TeaLive was always around whenever I wanted a milk tea.
One day while browsing the mall directory at Sunway Velocity, I saw that there was a Tiger Sugar location here. I spotted the shop from the escalators and saw the snaking queue. It would seem that many others agree that this is the best boba to be had in the city.
I stared at the menu, puzzled. I know the menu looks straightforward to the average Malaysian, but for someone who is used to the bubble tea menu looking like the flavour list at Baskin-Robbins, it was quite confusing. Brown sugar boba milk… brown sugar pearl milk… brown sugar black tea with pearl? Weren’t these all the same thing? If this was Canada, they would be.
In the west, bubble tea is a whole different monster. My memories of bubble tea shops in Canada include exhaustive lists of downright disgusting flavours that would be unfathomable in Asia: banana, hazelnut chocolate, honeydew. Of course, the colour of the drink would have to match, so green apple flavour would be a sickly green. There would be “original” or “milk black” flavour on the menus, but let’s be honest, nobody ever ordered that. Though nowadays it looks like the newer chains opening up are more traditional Taiwanese-style shops, and the nation has calmed its tits on the flavour front.
At the Tiger Sugar counter, I think I tried to order a “brown sugar boba milk tea.” The cashier asked if I wanted pearls. I confirmed, and he seemed to make a judgment call on what it was I actually wanted, which was a “brown sugar boba + pearl with cream mousse” according to my receipt. I’m thinking this is what everyone orders… unless they’re a freak who orders a green tea.
Before a young man in an apron relinquished my milk tea, he told me to shake it fifteen times before drinking. There was an element of trust involved, as in “I just made this delicious thing for you, don’t go fucking it up now.” As I took my drink, I could feel the heat on the cup from the tea. It was such a foreign feeling for something that should have been normal: hot tea in my bubble tea!
This looked way different than any other bubble tea I had ever had before. The bubbles nested happily in a dark pool at the bottom, and beautiful brown swirls created Rorschach-like images on my cup. So vastly different from the usual cups of cold beige liquid I had drunk before this point! After doing the crucial shake, counting carefully as if shaking sixteen times would cause the bubble tea to implode, I poked the straw in and had a taste.
Holy shit! This bubble tea actually tastes like… well, tea! I’m used to bubble tea just tasting like overly sweet milk – one step below a milkshake – but with this, it’s like you brewed a strong cuppa with milk and more sugar than you normally would because it’s that sort of day. The bold tea flavour is enhanced by the brown sugar, which after shaking gives the drink its namesake “tiger stripes”. It’s consistent throughout and adds a richness to every sip. Not only that, the bubbles were infused with a lightly roasted tea flavour as well. Most times the tapioca pearls have their original taste, and to me, they only serve to provide a fun chewing experience. Tiger Sugar pearls were a treat in their own right. The combination of the milk, brown sugar and pearls was a melody in my mouth.
Tiger Sugar brown sugar pearl milk tea has been a total game-changer. From now on, this is what bubble tea is supposed to taste like. I can’t even go back to my once-adored TeaLive – Tiger Sugar has ruined me. It is much more expensive than TeaLive (about RM5 more a cup) but it’s so good that I’m willing to take the hit. You just don’t get layers of flavours like this in cheaper bubble teas. One day I’d like to try the other big bobas like The Alley, Koi and Daboba to see how they compare.
Until then, Tiger Sugar is my new boba boyfriend.