Is Boba Tea Bad or Good for You?

Boba tea is named after the tiny round tapioca pearls it is made of. It is also known as tapioca tea, pearl milk tea, and pearl shake, but the most popular term is bubble tea because tapioca pearls look like bubbles.

This tea originates from Asia, but it has become so popular that you can now find it in teashops and cafés all around the world. This sweet beverage is a combination of tapioca pearls and flavored milk tea. You drink it with a large straw, which is wide enough to fit these pearls so that you can suck them up and chew them.

Keep reading to find out more about this sweet treat, its nutritional value, and the best way to prepare it. You will also learn the answer to a frequently asked question: ”Is boba tea bad or good for you”?

What Is Boba Tea Made Of?

A Taiwanese tea shop owner invented boba tea way back in the 1980s, while experimenting with putting different combinations of flavors such as syrups, fruits, and tapioca balls in teas with milk. This beverage soon became very popular throughout the whole Asian continent. Since the 2000s, its popularity started to grow in Europe and America as well.

The main ingredients of this beverage are the small black tapioca pearls or boba. You get boba from cassava starch, brown sugar, and sweet potato. There is a less popular and different tasting variation of the drink with white tapioca pearls, which are made from cassava starch, chamomile root, and caramel.

Cassava root, which typically grows in Thailand and Nigeria, is used to make cassava starch, the main ingredients of these tapioca balls.

Other ingredients that can be added include egg pudding and jelly. The fruit variants are mixed with slushies and fruit smoothies. For coffee lovers, there are coffee blends mixed with boba tea.

Boba Tea Nutritional Value

Published research on the benefits of boba tea is limited, but it is known that this type of beverage is very caloric and has a high fat content. A 16-ounce serving of boba milk tea has between 200 and 450 calories, half of which comes from fats.

Even worse, a 32-ounce serving of this beverage contains up to 250%of the maximum recommended daily sugar intake for men and almost 400% of the maximum daily sugar intake for women. The total sugar content depends on the way the tea is served and the use of added ingredients such as jelly and egg pudding.

Added sugar should comprise less than 10% of the total daily calorie intake, according to the U.S. dietary guidelines. For example, if your diet consists of 2500 calories per day, no more than 250 of those calories should come from sugar.

Tapioca itself isn’t particularly nutritious. Its mineral and vitamin content is extremely low, and it lacks fiber as well. The protein content of dried boba is negligible, but the milk added to this drink increases the protein intake when you drink the tea.

While tapioca is used in some diets, it is only as a source of carbohydrates. Bubble tea is already full of sugars, yet some people put added sugar when making it, which only makes the situation worse. The fruity taste in this beverage is often artificial, with added flavors and fruit concentrate full of sugar.

The good news is that boba at least does not contain fat of its own. Instead, the fat in boba tea comes from milk and other dairy products used in its preparation.

Overall, boba tea does not seem like a healthy drink. Despite that, it is most popular among younger generations, which isn’t a surprise considering its high sugar content. It’s also no wonder many call it a tea dessert, seeing as it has more similarity to candy than proper herbal tea.

How to Make Boba Tea at Home

You can simply avoid buying unhealthy and overpriced bubble tea from teashops and cafes, where they use plenty of added sugars, and make a healthier version of this drink yourself.

That way, you can control the quality of all the individual ingredients and totally skip the added sugars, or at least reduce their amount. It is still going to be packed with carbs because of boba, but it is OK to drink it in moderation.

You can find a variety of bubble tea kits and boba packs for purchase online at affordable prices. These include the white and black tapioca variants, as well as some flavored packages that taste like strawberry, kiwi, mango, etc.

The process of making this beverage is fairly simple; there are quite a few video guides online in case you want to be sure you are doing it right. When you make it, you will see that the boba settles on the bottom of the cup. It has a nice visual appeal to it.

For a custom-made experience, you should add milk and flavors of your choice. Regular milk can be replaced with coconut, soy, or almond milk. You can also add some syrup for extra flavoring or even blend all the ingredients together to get a smoothie-like dessert.

The healthy versions of boba tea include fruits like bananas, berries, and avocados. You can experiment with flavors and make it to so it fits your personal preference. Do not forget to prepare a wide straw which you will use to slurp the pearls from the bottom.

Tips When Ordering Bubble Tea

If you want to order bubble tea at a teashop, but want to make sure it’s healthy, you can follow these tips:

  • Ask them to use less sugar or no sugar at all.
  • Instead of creamers, ask for skimmed or low-fat milk. Also, it will not hurt if the milk is fresh.
  • If you are paying special attention to your caloric intake, ask the barista to remove the tapioca balls after making the tea.

The Choice Is Yours

Now that you know all about its origins, ingredients, and nutritional value, all that is left is to decide – is boba tea bad or good for you?

If you decide to continue drinking boba tea, follow the tips mentioned above to enjoy a healthier version of this beverage. And remember, even though homemade boba tea is usually healthier than the regular, sugar-heavy variant you get at tea shops, it still contains plenty of carbohydrates. As such, you should drink it in moderation.

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5217910/
https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-08-24/boba-drinks-are-threat-your-health-because-bad-data-we-dont-know-who-most-risk

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