With all the bubble tea shops closing overnight, I can hear the virtual screams of bubble tea fans throughout the country, myself included. For the sake of flattening the curve, I guess this is for the better and we just need to hold it out till they reopen in May. If you are finding it hard to curb your cravings for bubble tea, you can visit the stores selling bubble tea within hawker centres, restaurants that sell bubble tea, make your own or check out these substitutes I found until the bubble tea shops reopen.
1. PureDan Brown Sugar Bubble Milk Tea Ice Cream Cone
Gaining widespread viral popularity in Taiwan last year is this TrueDan ice cream cone which is made in Taiwan by the bubble tea shop of the same brand. TrueDan currently has 2 physical bubble tea shops in Singapore but fret not as the ice cream is sold at selected 7-11 instead of their store. Each box retails for SGD 15 for 4 cones
The cones come in a good size which is similar to the cornetto cones and the pretty greenish package has a consistent theme from the box.
The top of the ice cream cone has bits of nuts and solid chocolate which does not resemble the brown sugar milk tea at this point. I chose to bite into the cream first and was pleasantly surprised by the strong fragrance of the milk tea. The taste of the tea came forth first followed by the mildly sweet milky cream. When I bit into the cone from the top, I found that the chocolate and nuts overpowered the taste of the tea. With the strong chocolate taste, I could not taste the milk tea at all.
Once I started further into the cream, I realised that there are brown sugar bobas hidden within the ice cream. The bobas are chewy and mildly sweet but slightly on the harder side. The taste of the brown sugar was mild in the boba but at this point complimented the milk tea cream very well. The cone was, unfortunately, a bit soft although not soggy. The end tip of the cone also had melted chocolate which provided a sweet end to the dessert-like other ice cream cones.
Personally, I like that the tea taste came out well in the ice cream although not so much the chocolate and nuts as the toppings as that stole the show from the brown sugar milk tea. This is available as a limited edition so do try them while they are being sold.
2. Nestea Okinawa Brown Sugar Milk Tea
Also found in 7-11, these cost SGD 2.40 each but with their promotion, you can get 2 at SGD 3.90. Manufactured in Taiwan, these bottles do not contain any boba. At $SGD 2.40 for 500 ml, these are a fraction of the price for a cup from the actual stores.
The packaging is bright and cheerful but at first glance, the drink looks kind of diluted. The smell was very strong on the milk tea which is similar to many other brands of bottled milk tea. The first taste was slightly disappointing as the drink is indeed quite diluted. The taste of the tea is strong but the brown sugar was slightly mild. You could taste quite a faint caramelised brown sugar taste after drinking a few more gulps of the drink. The worst thing about this was the milk, you can definitely taste the artificial milk powder or essence being used as the milk taste was very flat and cakey. Personally, I will not waste my calories on this even though the price is very pocket friendly
3. Polar Milk Tea Series
Also made in Taiwan, this Polar brand of bubble milk tea comes in 3 variations; the Oolong bubble milk tea, brown sugar bubble milk tea and the Peach bubble milk tea. I only managed to find 2 flavours at the 7-11 near me so there is no review on the brown sugar version.
Firstly, the bottles are very cute and sturdy and there is an interesting and nice touch to the packaging. As the bottles come with an aluminium seal, they included a sharp area on the bottle cap which allows you to cut open the seal when you twist the sharp part against the seal so there is no need to look for scissors or peel the aluminium seal.
The boba used are actually not the same as the ones sold at the bubble tea shops as they are made of Konjac jelly instead of the tapioca flour which is chewy. These konjac ones are more soft and jelly like so it does not really satisfy the actual boba craving. For me who is not crazy about boba, this is a refreshing change.
The taste of the drink itself has a much thicker consistency compared to the Nestea one and taste a lot like those old school bubble tea where powdered milk or creamer is used instead of fresh milk. You get a heavy milk flavour with slight tea taste leaving a very sweet aftertaste in your mouth. The oolong one has a slightly chocolatey flavour to it whereas the peach one has a strong artificial sweet flavouring to it.
Selling at SGD 2.60 per bottle or SGD 3 for 2 bottle on promotion, the price is the cheapest per bottle but as with the Nestea one, you can instantly taste the artificial creamer and sweetener added to them and not to mention the preservatives added since they last for a couple of months. ( The bottles I bought last till November) Personally, I will not waste my calories on this as well unless there are BBT fans out that that really will die without their daily dosage and 7-11 is the nearest shop for them.
4. Youus Tiger Brown Sugar Milk
I discovered this about half a year ago when I passed the petrol station and the packaging and name definitely attracted me to buy it. A fan of the Tiger brand brown sugar milk, I immediately knew I had to get this ready made one to try. This pre-packed version is manufactured by a Korean company named Dong won F&B and sells at their convenience stores GS25. I was surprised that it was not made in Taiwan and I wonder if they are under the same Tiger brand.
The price was sold at SGD 3.50 which is the highest priced one compared to the rest but is still at least half of the price of the usual fresh Tiger brand ones. These are sold at NTUC Express outlets only mainly at Esso petrol stations but I have read online that Cheers carry them too.
The small cup comes with a straw for easy consumption and the drink comes without boba. My first sip and it hits the exact spot and I am in bubble tea heaven. The taste of this is the exact same taste as the ones sold at the bubble tea stores. The consistency of the milk balanced with the brown sugar is perfect and you can tell fresh milk is used by the pure taste of the it. Because of the fresh ingredients used, this has a short expiry date and is kept at the fresh milk chiller. This is definitely worth the calories and a good choice to satisfy the cravings. I am assuming this is brown sugar fresh milk only since I can’t read the Korean on the cup and can’t taste much tea.
I have also read online there is another version of this pre-made brown sugar milk tea by the Korean company Purmil and is sold at 7-11 and Fairpress Xpress outlets. The packaging is quite different as seen below. From some of the blogs, the taste is also quite legit.
5. Ah Chino Brown Sugar Boba Ice Cream Bar
The first brand of brown sugar ice cream introduced into Singapore was the Xiao mei brand which was imported by Happy Ice. The moment these were introduced, they were sold out instantly and it was almost impossible to get them. Now you can get them in Sheng Siong other than the online site.
Shortly after, NTUC also started to bring in another Taiwanese brand of brown sugar ice cream by Ah Chino and sells them at their Fairprice Finest outlets. One box of 4 retails at SGD 12.90 and they are having a promotion of 2 box going for SGD 20 only.
The packaging is very brown sugar like and immediately calls out to your inner brown sugar cravings
Each ice cream stick is general in size and has nice brown swirls through the frozen cream stick. You can also see brown pearls peeping out from within the ice cream bar.
The amount of boba in one stick is extremely generous and each bite guarantees a mouthful of chewy bouncy pearls. Surprisingly, the pearls were not hard or tough even though it is within the ice cream. The ice cream itself tasted just like the brown sugar milk drink itself except it was frozen as an ice cream bar. The taste is creamy and deep with caramelised brown sugar flavours. This is also worth your calories in my opinion.
Although I have not tried the Xiao Mei brand or Tiger brand of ice cream bar, I have read that they are equally good. So definitely give these ice cream bars a try. My personal favourite substitutes for the actual bubble tea will be the Youus brown sugar milk drink and the Ah Chino brown sugar ice cream bar if I need to satisfy any bubble tea cravings.