Brown Sugar Milk Tea (Boba) is a creamy iced tea sweetened with dark brown sugar, giving it a complex flavor with a caramel note. Adding chewy tapioca pearls makes this drink so fun to enjoy in summer.
What is Bubble Tea (Boba)
Bubble tea is a tea-based drink originating from Taiwan, and has become popular in many Asian countries in the last two decades. There are many varieties of boba with different flavors, but the most popular one is iced milk tea with black tapioca pearls. The tea can be black, green or oolong depending on particular flavor combinations.
This brown sugar milk tea is among the best-selling flavors in Vietnam at a number of well-known franchises such as Gongcha and Koi Thé. It is creamy with black tea undertone and a hint of caramel/toffee from dark brown sugar. The name of this drink in Vietnamese is tra sua tran chau duong den (tra sua tran chau means bubble tea and duong den means dark brown sugar).
I often find myself craving bubble tea when summer comes, but to be honest, I always hesitate to go out and buy the drink because there are reports of unhealthy chemicals found in the ones sold at bubble tea shops. So I’ve been making both tapioca pearls and milk tea at home to enjoy this tasty drink without fear.
Watch the Video for Making this Drink
To make brown sugar bubble tea, you will need the following ingredients:
- black tea: I often use Earl Grey or Lady Grey, but feel free to use what you have on hand. Loose leaf tea will make tastier drinks than tea bags.
- dark brown sugar: the advantage of making this drink at home is you can control how much sugar to use. Dark brown sugar will give the drink an addictive caramel/toffee note.
- heavy cream: I strongly recommend using heavy cream (or half and half at the very least) if you want the milk tea to be rich and creamy like at bubble tea shops. If you use milk, the body will be much thinner.
- cooked tapioca pearls: I make them myself (check out my homemade boba pearls recipe here). You can also find dried pearls at Asian grocery stores and cook according to package instructions. The milk tea is still tasty without the pearls, just slightly less fun to drink :).
- water and ice
Now, does it have to be black tea and dark brown sugar? Yes, absolutely. Black tea has a dark, deep and bold flavor that goes well with the caramel hint of dark brown sugar. The grassy taste of green tea will not pair well here.
Can light brown sugar be used in this recipe? The flavor will be less complex if you use light instead of dark brown sugar. You can read this short article about the differences between these two types of sugar.
How to Make Brown Sugar Milk Tea at Home
This bubble tea recipe is very quick and easy once you have the tapioca pearls prepared. The main steps are summarized in the photo below.
An important thing to note is you should brew the tea very strong so that its flavor doesn’t disappear once ice is added. Other than that, all other steps in this recipe are very straightforward.
I mix everything directly in my serving glass. If you have a cocktail shaker, you can add sugar syrup, brewed tea, and cream, then shake with ice before pouring it into serving glasses.
Other summer drinks you may like:
I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment and a rating (if you have tried it). New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.
Brown Sugar Milk Tea
For the Brown Sugar Syrup
- 4 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
For the Tea
- 1 tablespoon black tea
- 1 cup hot water at 208°F or 97°C
- 1/3 cup cooked tapioca pearls (more or less to your liking)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream ( more or less to your desired creaminess)
- To a small saucepan, add dark brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of water. Stir to combine and simmer over medium heat for about 2 minutes until the mixture slightly thickens. Remove from the heat.
- Quickly rinse your teapot with hot water, then add black tea. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the pot, cover and steep for 4-5 minutes.
- Pour the tea into a glass (or jug) over 6-8 ice cubes to cool it immediately.
- Divide tapioca pearls between serving glasses, then divide the brown sugar syrup and the tea. Add some ice cubes and then add heavy cream. Stir and enjoy immediately.