We all love us some Bubble tea; it is so delicious, and those pearls make it simply irresistible for use to order. But, if you’re anything like me, you probably feel awful and incredibly guilty after drinking 500ml of milk, sugar and other, who-knows-what they put inside these amazing drinks.
If you’re trying to lead a healthy life and pay attention to your diet, Bubble tea can surely make things difficult. But, is Boba really that unhealthy, and if so, in what aspects does it cause health problems? Recent studies have shown that the problem lies in, of course, the calories. Because the drink has become globally popular, the variations and combination expanded. This, of course, means more ingredients and more calories.
However, calories can be a tricky thing to believe. Sometimes, when a certain drink or food is high in calories doesn’t mean it is unhealthy. If something is high in nutrition, it will also have more calorie numbers.
But, it seems that the same doesn’t apply to Bubble tea. Current nutritional facts regarding this drink show that the calorie value of Boba is incredibly high. Therefore, in the following paragraphs, we will discuss the issue of calories in Bubble tea, and how we can cut them.
Bubble Tea Ingredients/Calories
In order to understand the calories found in Boba, we must approach the problem by taking a look at the very ingredients list. The classic Bubble tea does not include many ingredients; black tea, milk (fresh milk, almond or soy milk), sugar, other sweeteners, and of course, tapioca pearl.
To many, this ingredients list doesn’t seem like much; maybe the sugar might cause some problems, but overall, it’s not like you’re drinking 500ml of Coca Cola, right? Well, let’s observe the calories of each ingredient;
- Sugar – approximately 10 to 15 spoons of sugar per 500ml; taking in consideration that per spoon, sugar serves up to 16 calories, we can conclude that at least 160 calories are coming from the sugar alone,
- Other sweeteners (example, honey or maple syrup) – approximately 86 calories per one serving cup of milk tea,
- Milk – depending on the type of milk, approximately between 13 and 60 calories; almond and soy milk have approximately 164 calories each, per serving cup. You can check our article How to Make Milk Tea – 12 Recipe Ideas
- Tapioca pearls – alongside sugar, tapioca pearls add the most calories to the drink; approximately 100 calories per 20 to 30g.
- Black tea – in a cup of black tea there are 2 calories, as it is incredibly low in calories.
Note: if we take into consideration the approximate calories per each ingredient, a classic milk Bubble tea can have anywhere between 300 and 500 calories per serving cup of exactly 473ml or 16 ounces.
Bear in mind that this is a small, or standard serving cup; nowadays Boba shops tend to provide even larger serving sizes, which automatically increases the calorie content and intake.
And, of course, these are just the standard Bubble tea ingredients. We also need to consider individual components that serve as common add-on ingredients in Boba;
- Chocolate (syrup) – approximately 150 calories per standard serving size,
- Mix jelly or fruit/tea jelly – between 20 and 40 calories per one serving, depending on the jelly ingredients,
- Taro – approximately 31 calories per serving,
- Cooked Taro balls – approximately 187 calories per one serving, which is usually around 130g per serving cup of Bubble tea,
- Fruits (banana, mango, watermelon, honeydew or passionfruit) – approximately between 20 and 90 calories, depending on the fruit choice,
- Condensed milk (sweetened) – depending on how much it is added, and whether it is used as topping; approximately 300 calories per 100g; 2 tablespoons, for example, contain 90 calories,
- Ice cream – 1 serving size, 4oz scoop has between 140 and 260 calories, depending on the ice cream brand and flavor,
- Egg pudding – around 50 to 60 calories per one Boba serving (the pudding contains additional 18 grams of sugar)
More: How to Make Bubble Tea?
Note: These common add-on ingredients individually add numerous calories to an already high-in-calories drink. So, a drink that at its most basic form contains at least 300 calories, can skyrocket those numbers up to staggering 500 to 800 calories. Some varieties of Bubble milk, like Green tea or Thai tea milkshake, can have even up to 900 calories per serving.
Now, to put things in perspective, let’s consider the following; for a healthy adult, the recommended daily calorie intake is between 2000 and 2500 calories. This includes three main meals and snacks. Now, consider having only one drink and already consuming between 300 and 800 calories; this is where the problem with Boba might lie.
By drinking one cup of Bubble tea, you’ve already consumed what is equivalent to 1.5 snacks, all at once.
4 Health Effects of Bubble Tea
A few decades ago, when Bubble tea made the global headlines and became a cultural phenomenon, few were concerned about the health effects of this drink.
Only as of lately have people start questioning how high in calories this beverage is and whether it can affect our health negatively. That is why researchers across the world have started conducting studies regarding the ways high sugar and calorie content in Bubble tea can cause adverse health effects;
1. Weight gain and obesity
Recent studies have shown that high caloric and sugar content in Bubble tea is posing an obesity risk in children and adults in Asia, and as of lately in the United States as well. The beverage has been proven to directly influence health and encourage obesity, as well as obesity-related comorbidities. In children who have regularly consumed Bubble tea, the cases of obesity have doubled.
In adults who have consumed Boba, there were occurrences of extreme weight gain, chronic diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain kinds of cancer.
Ever since thousands of Boba tea shops started opening in Taiwan and the rest of Asia, the BMI increased drastically, even though Asian countries have a low prevalence of obesity.
Do You Know: In Taiwan specifically, over 87% of obese adults consume Bubble Tea daily, and 25% consume more than 500ml on a daily basis; with each cup of the drink they consume up to 68g of sugar.
To reiterate, once cup of Bubble tea contains approximately at least 300 calories, and at least 10 to 15 spoons of sugar. Combined with milk, tapioca pearls, and milk, this drink can surely make you gain weight over a small period of time if consumed regularly. That is why public health organizations suggest moderate consumption of Bubble tea.
2. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder
Recent studies have shown a direct correlation between excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and neurobehavioral conditions in children. Beverages, like Bubble tea, have a high sugar content which causes insulin secretion and stimulates the activation of hyperactivity as well as deficits in cognitive functions.
Health organizations have issued several warnings to parents regarding the excessive sugar consumption of their children. The reason for these warning lies in worrying results; in South Korea, for example, school-aged children are being increasingly diagnosed with ADHD over high sugar consumption.
Do You Know: In Taiwan, furthermore, 9% of school-aged children are diagnosed with ADHD, and worldwide over 7% of children have attention deficits. The majority of the cases are, unfortunately, linked to high consumption of drinks like Boba tea.
3. Possible cause of cancer
A cross-study that was focused on connecting Bubble tea calories, sugar intake and health effects has discovered that Bubble tea can be a cancer-causing beverage.
Because Bubble tea is based on the so-called tapioca pearls, it is emphasized that these pearls contain some questionable, carcinogenic chemicals.
Several Boba chains In Germany (originating in Taiwan) have undergone research regarding the tapioca pearls they sell. Their tapioca samples have actually been made of organic chemicals, that should not be in food at all.
These chemicals are not just known to cause cancer, but also affect the immune system, nervous system, and reproductive system as well. That is why the German government has issued a public health warning, not only because of the cancer-causing chemicals but also because of the risk of obesity, as well as choking risk.
4. Allergic reactions
There were several cases of allergic reactions directly connected to the consumption of Bubble tea. It seemed that tapioca pearls, made from cassava, have been causing allergic reactions.
People, who were unaware of their root-vegetable allergies have been put in terrible situations. There were also reports that people who are allergic to latex were having allergic reactions to tapioca pearls as well.
Any Healthy Alternative to Bubble Tea?
To end this article on a positive note, we’ve decided to point out something very important; there is a way you can enjoy your Bubble tea without all the guilt and risk of weight gain or disease. Here are some of our recommendations, tips, and tricks for all the Bubble tea lovers out there;
- Avoid tapioca pearls
Sure, this may sound a bit drastic and exaggerated, but tapioca pearls are probably one of the unhealthiest ingredients in Boba. Sure, they taste and look amazing, but they are extremely high in calories, and moreover, contain cancer-causing chemicals. Per one serving, tapioca pearls contribute with 100 additional calories; so, next time maybe choose some healthier toppings, like green tea or fruit jelly which have considerably fewer calories.
- Choose low-fat milk
Next time you order Boba, remember to choose low-fat milk instead of almond, soy or powdered milk. Fresh milk is incredibly low in calories as well, but many Boba shops usually don’t have it. However, always make sure to check; if there’s no fresh milk, ask for low-fat one. Also, make sure to emphasize that you don’t want any additional dairy creamers or sweetened condensed milk; these can add hundreds of calories to your drink. Not to mention that you can have your Bubble tea without milk; this way you’re only drinking iced tea, which is also great, and healthy.
- Ask for more fruits
When ordering Bubble tea, people usually tend to forget that they can ask for extra fruits. There are Boba versions that come with dices of different fruits or are made of mixed and blended fruits. However, these usually get blended with milk and sweeteners. Therefore, next time skip on the milk and ask for more of the grapefruit, oranges, watermelon, strawberries or mango.
- Choose natural sweeteners
To avoid the high sugar content in Bubble tea, make sure to ask for honey or maple syrup next time you are ordering. Honey and maple syrup are lower in calories and fat when compared to sugar. They are also healthy for us and don’t cause any adverse health effects. Unlike sugar, honey and maple syrup only add 86 calories per 500ml serving, which is a great deal for your health.
Bubble tea is surely very popular across the world, and the popularity won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon. Hopefully, global health organizations will do a better job promoting the negative effects of this beverage. This way Boba shops might actually take care of the calorie content in their drinks.
In the meantime, you can enjoy your Bubble tea, but with more attention and care. As we’ve recommended, look for a healthier alternative and avoid tapioca pearls and sugar. This way you’ll be able to enjoy this tasty beverage without the guilt.