Boba Obsession : Just How Much Sugar Is In One Cup of Boba Tea?

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Boba tea obsession or sugar obsession?

You and I both know that the boba tea is what’s in right now. All the cool kids queue for hours just to get a sip of that sweet, delicious, refreshing beverage topped with boba pearls. I mean for me personally, I’m already on that trend before it was even cool. So now when everyone is chasing and running towards the boba shops, your girl is already going to the next big thing.

Curious what that is? Psst. I can’t tell you just yet. We gotta wait until the time is right. 


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With the current boba trend that seems to have taken over the foodie world overnight, have you ever stopped to wonder; just what it is about this boba tea that kept people continuously going back for more? Is boba really just that addicting? Or is it the sugar? 



Bubble Tea and Boba, What Is It? 


Bubble tea (also known as pearl milk teabubble milk tea, or boba) is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented in Tainan and Taichung in the 1980s. It became known as “bubble tea” because of the thick layer of foam that forms on top of the drink after it is shaken. 


boba tea sugar


But what exactly is boba? The boba (aka the tiny, chewy black balls at the bottom of the drink) is made from tapioca, which is a gluten-free starch extracted from the root of a cassava plant. While the actual drink is made from a tea base mixed with milk and flavoring.



When Did Boba Get So Popular ? 


Despite its overnight popularity that seemingly came out of nowhere, bubble tea was already popular and widely known in the 1980s in Taiwan. It first started with larger tapioca pearls, which were quickly adapted and replaced by smaller pearls. 

Boba drinks/ bubble teas started getting popular around the last decade or so, and seemingly still on the rise to this day due to the fact that more and more boba shops started experimenting with different flavors such as fruit flavors, adding different colors and using various cup holders to make it look more aesthetically pleasing to the eyes, and of course, Instagram.  


boba tea sugar



Is Boba Good For You? 


Just because its tasty and popular, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. 

The main components of bubble tea are tea, milk, and tapioca pearls — as well as alarmingly high levels of sugar. Tapioca pearls — loved for their chewy, candy-like texture and often referred to by their Chinese name, boba — are actually as bad for your health as actual candy.



How Much Sugar is In One Cup of Bubble Tea? 


Now we’re getting to the fun part. Did you know, that on an average, a cup of boba tea contains at least 18 teaspoons of sugar? Did you also know how much sugar intake is recommended daily for a normal healthy adult? 8 teaspoons. 


boba tea sugar


Drinking bubble tea on the daily will definitely gain you some pounds as it adds on to your daily calorie intake. Boiled and then saturated with sugar, these chewy little tapioca balls can each add 5 to 14 calories to your drink, which means that just 1/4 cup of them can add over 100 extra calories. That can easily put one cup of bubble tea close to 500 calories, with 50 grams of it being sugar.

Additional to that, its sugar content can pose a high risk of not only diabetes, but also low immunity, accelerated aging and tooth decay. 



Bubble Tea and Nutritional Values 


tapioca pearls


When it comes to nutritional values, boba or bubble tea, is what is called as “empty calories”. Meaning that, it only contains calories but don’t actually contribute anything in the way of nutrition. Bubble tea basically contains carbs, while lacking any mineral or vitamins and containing no fiber. 


Brown Sugar Milk Tea, Healthier? 


There is a notion we hear the word “brown sugar” or “fresh milk”, it makes us think that those are healthier ingredients, however that might not always be the case according to a research done by Mount Alvernia Hospital.


boba tea sugar


The hospital compared the sugar level in seven types of bubble tea orders, and found that the unhealthiest option by far was brown sugar milk tea with pearls. This drink contains 18.5 teaspoons of sugar.

And while fruit-based drinks might seem healthy, they were in fact worse choices: passion fruit green tea (8.5 teaspoons) and jasmine green tea with fruit toppings (8.5 teaspoons) outranked milk tea with pearls (8 teaspoons) in sugar content.



Health Concerns 


Since mid May of 2013, Taiwanese health authorities have been actively confiscated more than 312 tons of food starch –– a key ingredient in bubble tea –– that was found to have been tainted with maleic acid, a cheap food additive that can cause kidney failure when consumed in large doses. 

This is the second food scandal in two years, after the discovery of the usage of DEHP, a chemical plasticizer and potential carcinogen used to make plastic, was found as a stabilizer in drinks and juice syrups in May 2011. 



Tips on Ordering A Healthier Bubble Tea


boba tea sugar


  1. Choose a smaller cup size
  2. Choose green tea, oolong tea, or black tea
  3. Ask for 30% sugar level or lower
  4. Ask for fresh, low-fat or skimmed milk instead of non-dairy creamer
  5. No toppings (or pick a lower calorie options)


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