Walking into the recently opened, ultra-popular Tiger Sugar boba tea shop at Bellaire Food Street, I suddenly had a feeling like I’d seen this ordering procedure somewhere before.
Walk in. Move immediately to your right. Place your order. Take your receipt. Move to the left. Wait in a socially distanced line near the massive stuffed tiger. No photos of the preparation area, please. The method is secret, you see.
Where have I seen this? Ah, yes, I’ve seen TV characters Jerry, George and Elaine do this before, except they were buying soup, not boba tea. Just like in the iconic “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld, Tiger Sugar is a pop culture phenomenon. Unlike the soup stand owner, though, Tiger Sugar employees are more than happy to answer a few questions.
But keep that line moving. There are a lot of people waiting, after all!
Tiger Sugar fits nicely into the ultra-hip Bellaire Food Street, home to other worldwide brands like Tom N Toms coffee and Two Hands corn dogs.
The first U.S. outpost of Tiger Sugar opened in Flushing, NY to lines around the block and, many U.S. locations later, the Houston grand opening in November was also hugely popular. Everyone, it seems, wanted to grab their Instagram-worthy cup of brown sugar boba tea made with a unique tiger stripe design.
“Others have tried to imitate but can’t compare,” the company recently said on social media.
Tiger Sugar claims their dark brown sugar syrup retains more nutrients. It for sure retains a slightly savory flavor, almost like a dark caramel.
The store’s signature boba drink takes eight hours to prepare. And, as mentioned, the recipe and the method for coating the cup are a secret. When you visit the Southwest District location, you will notice “no photos” signs around the preparation area. Not sure what happens if you take photos. Maybe you will hear, “No Tiger Sugar for you!” I wouldn’t chance it.
Everywhere else in the shop, though, photos — especially those intended for social media — are encouraged. The large stuffed tiger is the ideal backdrop, as is the front of the store where countless numbers of people have held up their tiger-striped drinks for snaps.
As CultureMap Houston said: “Houstonians have an almost infinite array of choices when it comes to boba tea, but a new entry looks poised to shake things.”
Founded in Taiwan in 2017, Tiger Sugar offers a limited menu of teas and now also Black Sugar Popcorn.
We picked up the shop’s signature drink, of course. That’s the rich milk tea sweetened with “tiger stripes” of deeply caramelized brown sugar down the sides of the cup topped with cream mousse. The bottom of the cup is loaded with two different sizes of boba — regular-sized boba and a smaller pearl size.
We also got a Black Tea Latte and a Tiger Jelly, which is the company’s newest drink of black sugar coffee with jelly, boba and pearl. I have to say, as a coffee drinker, Tiger Jelly was my favorite of the three. My taste buds were wide awake.
Back to proper procedure. You’ve successfully ordered, socially distanced while waiting, taken your photos with the stuffed tiger and your number has been announced and displayed on the electronic number board.
You’ve earned your stripes! Go up and collect your drink. But, before you pop in that straw, there are a few more things to remember.
It is highly recommended you take your Instagram photos immediately following receiving your drink so as not to lose the stripes. We may have waited a few seconds too long. (See photo).
Then, the staff advised, you should shake your drink precisely 15 times before popping in your straw and taking a sip.
Now it’s finally time to savor the creamy, sweet but not-too-sweet flavor of Tiger Sugar — while watching your “likes” rack up, of course.
9393 Bellaire Boulevard, Suite D
Bellaire Food Street
Houston, TX 77036
— By Dorothy Puch Lillig