Is Bubble Tea Healthy? The Facts Explained

is bubble tea healthy

Bubble Tea - Are There Any Health Benefits?

So you’ve heard of Bubble Tea, (or is it Boba Tea?), maybe you’ve already tried it… but now, like a lot of people you’re thinking – ‘Is Bubble Tea healthy?’ 

There are many health benefits to a number of tea’s, (more about that later), but can something that tastes as good as Bubble Tea be contributing to a healthy lifestyle?

In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know, breaking down the ingredients, effects, and benefits, to see how your new favorite drink stacks up against some of the more widely-known healthy teas. 

And the best bit? We’re not trying to sell it to you… so you can believe we’re offering you something honest and impartial!

How Bubble Tea Began

With tea drinking an established part of East Asian cultures, it may come as no surprise to learn that Bubble Tea started its life in Taiwan, where you can now find a Bubble Tea shop on nearly every street corner! 

Naturally, from there it began to spread to many of its neighboring countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, and much of Southeast Asia until it eventually reached the United States and the wider Western World in the mid-90’s. 

Is Bubble Tea Healthy?
Is Bubble Tea Healthy?

Despite having reached the Western population so long ago, it remained largely unknown for some time and the ‘boom’ of Bubble Tea happened in more recent years. As of 2020, there were close to 1,000 Bubble Tea Shops throughout the United States.

Oh, and the phrase ‘Boba’ means ‘breasts’ in Chinese, slang for the Tapioca balls that go into making the drink…. So let’s take a look at what goes into Boba Tea…

So What’s in Bubble Tea?

Whichever of the many names you choose to call it;

  • Boba Tea
  • Boba Milk Tea
  • Pearl Tea
  • Pearl Milk Tea
  • Bubble Milk Tea
  • Tapioca Tea

…it’s effectively a milky, iced teaBut what’s really inside?

The 7 Key Ingredients Of Bubble tea

1. The Tea Base

The main body of the drink is tea mixed with milk, flavored syrup, fruit, and Tapioca balls – and when you put them together, what you’re left with is a tasty and brilliantly unique beverage!

2. The Tea

Tea is packed with antioxidants, (especially green tea), that boost your immune system and metabolism. 

This increases the release of fat from your fat cells and speeds up your liver’s ability to burn fat, resulting in weight loss.

Is Bubble Tea Healthy?
Is Bubble Tea Healthy?

As well as reducing belly fat and speeding up your metabolism, Tea can also fight off diseases and reduce the risk of strokes and different types of cardiovascular disease, (including heart disease). 

You can choose any tea base, and the benefits of bubble tea will vary depending on which one you go for.

Here are a few of the more healthy options;

3. The Milk

A crucial part of this fascinating drink is the milk. 

While you can still buy Bubble Tea with whole milk, as it evolved into the 90’s with different flavors and styles, fresh milk was substituted for non-dairy creamer, making Bubble Tea instantly recognizable, sweet, and creamy taste. 

Is Bubble Tea Healthy?
Is Bubble Tea Healthy?

Kinds of milk on offer; 

  • Dairy
  • Non-dairy
  • Soy Milk
  • Coconut Milk 
  • Almond Milk
  • Lactose-free creams 

Our Top Tip is to avoid condensed milks.

They are full of processed ingredients and artificial sweeteners and some contain over 40% sugar!

3. Tapioca Balls

The small balls (or Tapioca pearls) that sit at the bottom of the cup have a chewy texture and are made from the starch extracted from cassava root. 

Cassava is a nutty-flavored root vegetable, native to South America, where it’s a major food staple.

It can be toxic if eaten raw, so in order to be used as Tapioca starch, it goes through a detoxification process before it can be eaten.

The small balls (or Tapioca pearls) that sit at the bottom of the cup have a chewy texture and are made from the starch extracted from cassava root

Some people think that the Tapioca Balls in the bottom of the drink are what give Bubble Tea its name – when in fact it’s the Bubble foam on top of the drink.

The early versions of Bubble Tea didn’t include Tapioca Balls.

The ¼” pearls vary in color depending on the ingredients that have gone into making them.

4. Added Flavors

Ever wondered why Bubble Tea comes in such a broad range of colors? 

Much like coffee, Bubble Tea has flavored syrups that will change the taste and color of your tea – along with how much sweetener and sugar are added! 

You can even have your Tea prepared with Jellies and Puddings and Yoghurt! 

Here’s a taste (sorry!), of just some of the flavors you can expect to see on offer;

  • Salted Caramel
  • Cookie Dough
  • Strawberry
  • Melon
  • Coconut
  • Chocolate
  • Almond
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Blueberry
  • Peppermint
  • Cherry
  • Lavender

5. Fresh Fruit

If you would rather add real fruit to your Boba Tea, (which we would certainly recommend as a healthier option with less sugar), then the sky is often the limit in many Bubble Tea shops.

Much like the fruits that appear in our list of syrup flavors, you can expect to find almost any fruit you would like in your drink.

Is Bubble Tea Healthy?
Is Bubble Tea Healthy?

If you are thinking of adding real fruit, these often go well with a plain Tea base, and neutral flavors like chocolate, caramel, and coconut pair well with milk teas.

6. Shaken, not stirred

Ok, so you’re not 007, but just like the famous Martini, once all of your ingredients have been chosen, the beverage is shaken vigorously, creating a foam on top.

It’s this bubble-like foam that gives the drink its world-renowned name, not the Tapioca balls that sit at the bottom!

7. Service!

As if you weren’t already flooded with choices you can make to suit your every whim  – all of the above can be served hot, iced, or even as a smoothie!

And finally… your Pearl Tea is served with an instantly recognizably wide straw, to accommodate the Tapioca balls that gather at the bottom of your beverage.

7 Health Benefits of Bubble Tea

As there are many different ingredients that can be chosen to make your Boba drinks truly unique, this in turn affects how healthy each one may, or may not be for you. 

With the majority of Boba Tea bases being made up of Organic Tea and milk, you could well be grabbing a daily dose of healthy nutrients.

A 16 fluid ounce serving of classic Bubble Tea with tapioca balls contains (on average) 210 - 300 calories and includes 38 grams of sugar

Of course, high calories and sugar content aren’t advised, but if you’re sensible with the type of tea and added extras you choose, there certainly can be benefits to this wonderfully distinctive beverage…

1. Energy Source

The caffeine in White, Black, and Green Tea, along with the sugar, makes Bubble Tea a brilliant source of energy.

Just be careful not to overdo the sugar content.

Is Bubble Tea Healthy?
Is Bubble Tea Healthy?

2. Boosts Immune System

Green Tea is a popular option amongst tea drinkers, and Bubble Tea is no exception, with the Green Tea base being one of the most commonly sold varieties on offer.

Green Tea contains Catechins and Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which function as powerful antioxidants, allowing your immune system to develop and flourish.

If you also choose a fruit like Mango or Strawberries, that are high in vitamin C, your immune system will be eternally grateful!

3. Enhance Weight Loss

Polyphenol and caffeine act as a dietary agency, making them an excellent substance to reduce weight.

Polyphenol itself is a reducing agent.

Is Bubble Tea Healthy?
Is Bubble Tea Healthy?

It was once thought that Green Tea contained the highest level of the weight-loss ingredient, when in fact recent studies have shown that Black Tea is a very close competitor, alongside Oolong Tea.

All three of these Teas are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant.

4. Heart Health

A healthy collection of ingredients will contain anti-inflammatory compounds called Polyphenols alongside antioxidants. 

This will ensure your blood vessel wall stays strong, helping your arteries fight off plaque, as well as protecting the body’s tissues against cancers, coronary heart disease, and inflammation.

This will only be the case if you avoid the high-sugar options available when placing your order – syrups and high-sugar fruits are best left alone!

5. Relieve Stress

The process of ordering, drinking, and sharing a Bubble Tea experience can all lead to one of the best stress relievers out there!

Is Bubble Tea Healthy?
Is Bubble Tea Healthy?

Taking time out to do something for yourself, something that comes with a wide range of choices personal to you, brightens up your day and tastes good? 

All of these things play their part in releasing endorphins and lowering your stress hormones.

6. Prevent Free Radical Damage

Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing chronic illness and aging. 

The epigallocatechin and polyphenols in Green Tea can fight against free radicals, making this a real favorite to add to your Bubble Tea wish list!

7. Lower Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that drinking Green Tea can lower blood pressure and total cholesterol, which can lower the risk of developing other serious cardiovascular conditions, such as strokes and heart disease.

Green Tea base it is! 

Is Bubble Tea Healthy? Facts On Nutrition

Let’s take a deeper dive into the facts behind the nutritional value so we can really understand – Is Bubble Tea healthy?

We will unpick the sugar content, and how many calories you can expect to find in each serving of Bubble Tea.

Is Bubble Tea Healthy?
Is Bubble Tea Healthy?

Sugars

A common 16 fluid ounce serving of classic Bubble Tea with tapioca balls contains (on average) 210 – 300 calories and includes 38 grams of sugar.

For comparison, a typical 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar.

Calories

When offered up against the daily recommended calorie intake for Males (2,500) and Females (2.000), a small Bubble Tea with balanced ingredients, certainly won’t tip the scales.

Now – by comparison a large (32-ounce), milk-based Bubble Tea with Tapioca balls, clocks in at a slightly more concerning 448 calories and 57 grams of sugar! 

This is a great example of how being smart with your bubble tea order can have a huge impact on your health.

Vitamins and Minerals

Bubble Tea doesn’t provide much in the way of Vitamins and Minerals. However, it does contain a small amount of;

  •  Folate
  •  Calcium
  •  Iron
  •  Selenium

Additional Nutrition

According to the USDA, an 8-ounce Bubble Tea also contains:

  • 0 grams of Protein 
  • 1.5 grams of Fat
  • 28 grams of Carbohydrate
  • 0 grams Fibre

The Bubble Tea Breakdown

DrinkSizeCalorie CountSugar Content
Classic Bubble Tea16 Fluid Ounces210 – 30038 Grams
Classic Bubble Tea32 Fluid Ounces448 57 Grams
Coca-Cola12 Fluid Ounces14039 Grams

Is Bubble Tea Healthy? The Bottom Line

While the base of Bubble Tea can be quite healthy on its own, the addition of processed ingredients, sweeteners, and artificial flavors has a big negative impact on the overall nutritional value and benefits. 

Its calories and carbohydrates can provide you with a boost in energy and many of the tea bases carry great health benefits, but in many cases, Bubble Tea contains high levels of sugar, which is linked to long-term health conditions like diabetes and obesity.

Our take home tip to continue enjoying Bubble Tea – all good things in moderation! 

A Bubble Tea every few days alongside a healthy, balanced diet is no bad thing at all, but we certainly wouldn’t recommend large, sugar-based options on a regular basis.