Brown Sugar Milk Tea: Is It As Healthy As It Is Tasty?

brown sugar milk tea

This intriguing beverage may shock you when you find out it’s not what you thought it was. The “layers” of mystery in a glass unfold as we reveal a beverage with two faces (tea and tea-like.) And it has managed to catch the attention of billions around the globe! Meet the brown sugar milk tea! 

What Is Brown Sugar Milk Tea?

Brown sugar milk tea is a Taiwanese beverage that caught on across the world. This beverage is known as bubble (boba) tea. Bubble tea shops have different ingredients and ways of preparing brown sugar milk tea. However, it’s universally served over ice in a cup with a wide straw — to munch on those tapioca bubbles! Overall, brown sugar milk tea varies in flavor from sweet to bitter and an overall smoky taste.

What Is Boba Tea?

To better understand brown sugar milk tea, it helps to know more about what boba tea is. Boba (bubble) tea trend started in Taiwan back in the 1980s. Its popularity spread throughout the world like wildfire, with bubble tea shops opening up worldwide. 

Bubble teas have a base of milk and black tapioca pearls. Various additives such as tea, flavored syrups, herbs, jellies, and more are used to create unique bubble teas, of which brown sugar milk tea is one. 

The tapioca pearls for bubble tea are made from cassava root paste, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and dye. All of these ingredients produce the distinguished black bubble-like balls of tapioca that give bubble tea its namesake. To enjoy this tea, a wide straw is used to suck up the beverage and the gelatinous tapioca balls.

What Is Brown Sugar Milk Tea Made Of?

brown sugar milk tea taste

Brown sugar milk tea (being one of many bubble tea varieties) is perhaps the most popular bubble tea. The ingredients to create this drink include milk, black tea, tapioca pearls, brown sugar, and ice. 

Taiwan’s version of brown sugar milk tea is quite different from what’s considered “quick-serve” brown sugar milk tea. The local tea baristas give more attention to details and try to stick with the traditional recipes, where all ingredients are mixed from scratch. The “quick-serve” method is made from powder, flavored syrup, and rather globulous tapioca pearls. 

It becomes easy to spot a traditionally prepared (fresh) cup of brown sugar milk tea and a “quick-serve” version because the “quick-serve” is in your hand before you complete paying for it. To give you an idea, we have laid out the two ways of how brown sugar milk tea is prepared in typical bubble tea shops (further on below.)

Well-known bubble tea shops with international franchises may use either the traditional or quick-serve method in preparing brown sugar milk tea. For the sake of quality and great taste, it pays to do your homework ahead before partaking a bubble tea. First impressions of a poor quality/tasting brown sugar milk tea can sour someone from trying again. 

According to World Tea News, Gong Cha brown sugar milk tea is one of the U.S. top-five bubble tea shops, with Tiger Sugar ranking among the top ten best. 

Traditional Method vs. Quick Serve Method: Brown Sugar Boba Tea Preparation And Ingredients

Traditional MethodQuick-Serve Method
Made with real teaTypically does not contain real tea

Freshly-made tapioca pearls
Brown sugar
Black tea (brewed)
Milk (fresh)

Packaged, pre-made tapioca pearls (stored in water)
Brown sugar flavored syrup
Black tea flavored syrup
Powder drink base (prepared ahead of time)

1. The fresh tapioca pearls are placed into a wok where brown sugar is added. The server will continuously flip and stir the drink to cause the brown sugar to caramelize into a syrup while infusing the flavor into the tapioca pearls.

2. The brown sugar tapioca pearl mixture is carefully poured into a cup as the barista ensures to coat the inside of the cup with the syrup.

3. Ice and milk are gently added.

4. A straw is placed into the cup, and the customer is instructed to shake it before drinking.

1. The pre-prepared powder drink base is poured into a cup full of ice.

2. Tapioca pearls are added to the cup.

3. The flavored syrups are added to the mixture in the cup.

4. A straw is added, and the customer is instructed to shake before drinking.

How Much Caffeine Is In Brown Sugar Milk Tea?

There’s no definitive or universal answer to how much caffeine you can expect to find in a brown sugar milk tea because of the various ingredients used and different methods of preparation. A traditionally prepared brown sugar milk tea may contain anywhere from ¼ cup of brewed tea to a cup. Longer brew times may be used to produce a more concentrated tea to stand up in the brown sugar milk tea. The longer you brew tea, the higher the caffeine content. Tea flavored syrups used in lieu of real tea are void of caffeine.

Is Brown Sugar Milk Tea Unhealthy?

Bubble tea, in general, is a carbohydrate-dense beverage with exorbitant amounts of sugar. When enjoyed with utmost moderation, it’s no different than having a piece of fudge or slice of cake. Brown sugar milk tea is not intended to be a replacement or alternative to a cup of real tea. Real tea offers numerous health benefits without excessive carbs and sugar. Bubble tea, on the other hand, offers very few health benefits.

When visiting bubble tea shops, trying to order off a menu is like a newcomer showing up at Starbucks asking for a small black coffee. 

There’s bubble tea lingo one almost needs to know when ordering any type of milk (bubble) tea: 

Sugar Grade/Level Ice

100% = as sweet as it can get
70% = very sweet
50% = sweet
30% = subtle sweetness, not overpowering
0% = no sugar

Regular = full cup
Less = ¾ full
Light = ½ full
None = no ice

What Is The Best Sugar Level In Milk Tea?

Don’t let the sugar grade on a menu fool you into thinking that the lower the percentage of sugar in your milk tea, the healthier it will be. Although less sugar is ideal, the milk tea will not be void of sugar. This is especially important to know for those of us who are diabetics. Milk contains sugar, the flavored syrups contain sugar, the powder mixes contain sugar, and our bodies convert the high carbs in the tapioca pearls into sugar. 

If one does decide to enjoy the occasional milk tea as an indulgence, ordering either a 0% or 30%, sugar grade may be best.

How Many Calories Are In A Brown Sugar Milk Tea?

best brown sugar milk teas

For those of us who are weight-conscious, brown sugar milk tea may not be an ideal beverage to enjoy. Bubble tea, in general, is high in calories, including brown sugar milk tea. The Food Science & Nutrition study on calories in bubble teas delivers eye-opening evidence on just how unhealthy any type of bubble tea can be.

The study findings note that the amount of sugar and calories that fill a cup of bubble tea can lead to obesity. They noted that a 32-ounce bubble tea packs in up to 384% of a person’s recommended daily intake of sugar.

We have outlined their findings on the amount of calories in milk tea which is broken down into two typical sizes most bubble tea drinkers order.

12 oz. Milk Tea18 oz. Milk Tea

Carbs: 38g
Calories: 229

Carbs: 57g
Calories: 448

With added toppings

Carbs: 48-57g
Calories: 269-323

With added toppings

Carbs: 72-96g
Calories: 431-515

Is It Okay To Drink Brown Sugar Milk Tea Every Day?

We don’t have the expertise to recommend or advise anyone on the daily consumption of brown sugar milk tea or any other milk and bubble tea types. We can provide you with enough evidence-based information on the caloric content of these drinks for you to make that choice. As we mentioned earlier, a cup of black or green tea is much more healthy and beneficial compared to milk tea. 

Brown Sugar Milk Tea Benefits

Unfortunately, there aren’t any health benefits to consuming milk teas other than having a sweet-tooth craving satisfied or having the experience of trying an Asian dessert drink. Although the traditional method of preparing brown sugar milk tea has black tea incorporated into the drink, the excessive amount of calories and carbohydrates outweigh any added benefit of the black tea.

How To Make Brown Sugar Milk Tea

We have a great brown sugar milk tea recipe for you to try at home. Having complete control over the ingredients and preparation allows you to be able to enjoy this bubble tea in a much healthier manner.

Traditional Brown Sugar Milk Tea Recipe


  • ½ cup of black tapioca pearls (pre-packaged)
  • 4 teaspoons of loose-leaf Assam black tea
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of dairy (your choice)
  • Ice


Brew The Tea

  1. Bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil.
  2. Remove from the heat.
  3. Place the loose leaf tea into a tea infuser and drop it into the hot water.
  4. Allow to steep until it reaches room temperature.
  5. Remove the tea infuser.

Prepare The Tapioca Pearls

  1. Place ½ cup of (pre-cooked/pre-packaged) black tapioca pearls into a strainer and run cold water over them.
  2. Thoroughly drain.
  3. Place the wet tapioca pearls into a skillet.
  4. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the tapioca pearls.
  5. Turn the stovetop burner on to medium.
  6. Constantly (gently) stir the tapioca pearls and brown sugar until the sugar begins to caramelize and thicken. Be careful not to overcook because the brown sugar will burn.
  7. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Pour Into A Glass

  1. Pour the caramelized tapioca pearls into a tall glass. 
  2. Use a spoon to coat the inside of the glass with the tapioca/brown sugar caramel syrup.
  3. Gently fill the cup with the desired amount of ice.
  4. Gently pour the milk (dairy) into the glass.
  5. Insert a wide straw.
  6. Stir well, and enjoy!

Dessert Or Tea?

It’s difficult to quantify brown sugar milk tea or any other bubble milk tea such as taro milk tea
as true “tea.” It seems as if the tea disappears behind all of the other added ingredients losing its identity and health benefits. Almost any tea aficionado will affirm that this beverage is a sweet treat rather than a tea and one that should be enjoyed with careful moderation.

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