3 out of 5 stars
As I soaked in the shadows of the Bellaire strip mall in line, not within sight of the already famous Taiwanese boba shop for hours, frantic thoughts raced through my mind: Shouldn’t I be studying for my midterms? Could my lactose-intolerant body handle this distinctly dairy experience? Isn’t it a little early for the DJ to be blasting Kesha and Pitbull? As neither a boba connoisseur nor line enthusiast, the grand opening of Tiger Sugar was nonetheless a very interesting experience. Frankly, Tiger Sugar undeniably delivered on the aesthetic front, but lacked depth of flavor and choices.
This past Saturday was Tiger Sugar’s grand opening in Bellaire, a highly anticipated event thanks to the power of TikTok. Tiger Sugar has, according to both customers and my own personal For You page, dominated social media food accounts since its opening in North Texas months ago. The picturesque brown sugar syrup stripes, creamy boba ice cream bars and, most importantly, free merch drew hundreds of people to Bellaire’s Chinatown. As a first time visitor to Bellaire Boulevard, I had little time to truly survey the massive options because of the sheer scale of the grand opening, with the socially distanced line stretching down the sidewalk and up the floors of the parking garage.
Despite the long lines and Houston heat, customers remained optimistic about trying Tiger Sugar’s world-famous drinks. The presence of DJs and employees congratulating persevering customers kept the environment festive. I was able to speak with some of the employees about the intensive training they had undergone to prepare for the increased traffic during the shop’s first few weeks of operation. However, they would not spill their secrets about the eight-hour boba preparation rituals.
I ordered the original brown sugar bubble tea with fresh cream and a unique tiger stripe design. When ordering, I noticed that unfortunately for my fellow vegan and lactose averse friends, the menu did not offer any alternative milk options — big L for the digestive system.
The drink as a whole felt a little lacking in flavor. The brown sugar syrup was sweeter than I preferred, and the shop did not offer sweetness adjustments. One of the strongest aspects of the drink was the presentation. While a little too sweet and rich for my liking, it did have a unique brown soiree flavor and delivered on the Instagram aesthetic front.
Tiger Sugar visually differed from many of the cutesy boba shops I’ve been to in the past. Its interior design was sleek and minimal, reinforcing both the small menu and the drink’s relative simplicity.
The subsequent pain and pleasure of drinking a rich, creamy and immediately filling drink is the best way to describe my experience. The richness was better suited for their signature boba ice cream bars, which I must say were nothing short of immaculate and a year-round necessity in Houston. I did find that the intensive praise of employees and customers of the boba was warranted — however, the lack of alternative options and variety on the menu made me feel as though this boba shop is yet to completely earn its stripes.