Xing Fu Tang's Brown Sugar Milk Will Make You Love Pearls

If you're the type to pass on the pearls...you won't now.

Xing Fu Tang
5/F The Podium, 12 ADB Avenue, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City
Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Monday to Thursday) and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Friday to Sunday) 

G/F Promenade Mall, Greenhills, San Juan City
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

PHOTO BY Ian Santos

(SPOT.ph) Milk tea is having its moment right now, and there are no signs of it ending any time soon. But, the trend didn’t come back exactly the way it was before: Today, brown-sugar milk drinks are king, and not only are some of your favorites coming up with their own versions but purveyors that specialize in the drink are also landing on our shores one by one—like Taiwan’s Xing Fu Tang.

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But first, what are brown sugar drinks, and why is everyone currently obsessed with them?

At Xing Fu Tang, boba are stir-fried in brown sugar.
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

Brown sugar in milk tea isn’t exactly new—if you see “Okinawa,” on the menu, you can expect a drink made with Okinawa-style brown sugar or sugar that’s been roasted to give it a deeper, almost-toasted sweetness. But the currently-trendy brown sugar drinks are milk-based drinks with pearls cooked in a brown sugar syrup, resulting in “tiger stripes” along the sides of your cup. They’re then often topped with a thick layer of cream for additional richness. First becoming popular in Taiwan, the drinks have since spread to other countries like the Philippines—and anyone who’s had the frankly sinful drinks know they can be highly addictive.

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The name "Xing Fu Tang" literally means "Happiness Hall."
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

You could give Xing Fu Tang some of the credit in spreading brown sugar milk around the world: Since they opened in Taiwan in January 2018, they opened more than 40 stores all over the island country before expanding outside to Hong Kong, Canada, and now the Philippines. (According to their official website, they’ll be opening stores in Japan, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Thailand, and more within the year.)

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Xing Fu Tang at Promenade Mall has a wooden Chinese fortune chest.
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

With the speed with which they opened branches all over their home country, we’re not surprised that Xing Fu Tang already has two branches in Manila within months of each other—Janica Lao, who helped bring the chain to Manila, shares that a third branch at McKinley Hill in Bonifacio Global City is on its way.

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Get vague yet fun prophecies depending on the number you pick.
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

While the branch at The Podium offers the same lineup of drinks as the one at Promenade Mall, the latter is worth a visit if only for the wooden Chinese fortune chest, where you can get tiny slips of paper with aphorisms or vague prophecies printed on them. It’s a fun way to pass the time, especially since the line can get long on busy weekends.

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Torching the brown-sugar top gives the Brown Sugar Boba Milk added crunch.
PHOTO BY Ian Santos

We’ll confidently say this though: The Brown Sugar Boba Milk (P120/cold, P135/hot) is worth the wait. Xing Fu Tang stir-fries their boba in a large iron wok full of brown sugar syrup, in open view of everyone—drop by early enough and you can see them turn the brown sugar into liquid gold, letting you know you’re getting freshly made syrup. The result is sticky-sweet pearls that have an almost velvety mouthfeel, but still with that tender chew—no mush here.

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As if that doesn’t sound decadent enough, fresh milk is added to these brown pearls, and the drink is topped with a thick layer of rich cream and a generous shake of brown sugar which is then blow-torched for a semi-brûléed effect. The resulting crunch from the toasted brown sugar is just the icing on the cake of this ultra creamy, deliciously decadent drink.

Back: Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea; front: Brown Sugar Boba Milk
PHOTO BY Ian Santos
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While the Brown Sugar Boba Milk is their signature drink, they also offer a version with tea: The Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea (P120/cold or hot) is no-frills compared to the Boba Milk version, as it doesn’t come with the cream and toasted sugar topping. But it’s a refreshing option, especially if you crave the distinctive earthy flavor of black tea.

The Matcha Boba Milk has a gorgeous, IG-ready gradient.
PHOTO BY Ian Santos
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The Matcha Boba Milk (P120/cold) has a beautiful gradient, which starts with pink boba cooked in strawberry syrup at the bottom, then a layer of milk, before being topped off with floral green tea. If you’re looking for a dairy-free option, you can opt for the Lemon Green Tea (P100/cold) or Lemon Black Tea (P100/cold), with lemon slices arranged to resemble a flower on top of your cup.

The Lemon Green Tea (front) is refreshingly fruity.
PHOTO BY Ian Santos
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Xing Fu Tang’s current drink lineup is but a small taste of what the chain has to offer: The full menu includes other sinkers like jelly and an incredibly adorable Bunny Jelly Smoothie that comes with a rabbit-shaped jelly on top. No need to wait long; they are working on bringing in more drinks to Manila—though we guarantee that you’ll end up coming back for the Brown Sugar Boba Milk anyway.

Photos by Ian Santos

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