Boba Tea: What Are the Benefits of Bubble Tea?
Over the last couple of years, you may have noticed more and more bubble tea cafes appear in your neighborhood. The drink has continued to gain popularity in the US, not just because of the big colorful straws you get to pop into the drink’s plastic-sealed top, but because it’s supremely yummy — it comes in all different colors, with different tea flavors, and toppings. But what exactly is bubble tea and is it good for you?
What's Bubble Tea?
Bubble tea — also known as boba tea or pearl milk tea — is a drink that originated in Taiwan and made its way into American culture after gaining popularity around college and high school campuses. It consists of a tea base and toppings. While the classic tea bases are black, green, or white tea, you can request added syrup flavors such as pineapple, strawberry, or lychee. You can also add milk for a boba milk tea. If a basic tea base isn’t your thing, try a number of other bubble tea bases. Here are just a few options:
- Coffee milk. This may consist of Oolong milk tea, matcha milk, or Jasmine milk.
- Taro milk. This purple base is made from tropical taro root and has a flavor reminiscent of Cookies-and-Cream ice cream.
- Honeydew milk. Like the other fruity flavors that you can add to the green or black tea base, the honeydew milk flavor is for those with a major sweet tooth.
- Thai tea. This bright orange tea is caffeinated and can also be served as a milk tea. You can usually find it at Thai restaurants, but you also try Tea Drop’s Thai iced tea to make it at home.
- Almond milk. This is a good dairy alternative with a similar consistency as milk.
- Slushy. On a hot day, slushy bubble tea can be just the ticket. A tea flavor of your choice is blended together with ice to make the refreshing base.
After you’ve chosen your base, the fun part begins — the toppings! Bubble tea comes with an array of toppings, such as boba — the most popular — taro balls, red bean, aloe vera, pudding, grass jelly, sago or tapioca, and whipped cream or foam. You can also request added sugar for more sweetness, different amounts of ice, and other toppings such as chunks of fruit.
Sometimes, bubble tea is simply referred to as “boba.” But boba is actually a specific kind of topping for bubble tea — though it doesn’t go “on top” of the drink. Boba is a gluten-free tapioca refined starch that’s derived from a cassava plant. It has a chewy texture and looks like little black pearls that sink to the bottom of your hot or cold bubble tea drink. By itself, boba doesn’t have much flavor, but sweeteners are usually added. According to The New York Times, the starch is mixed “with brown sugar syrup, water, potassium sorbate and guar gum, to produce a damp, caramel-colored powder." You can suck up the boba through a bubble tea straw — a larger-than-average straw.
How to Make Bubble Tea
There are a number of ways to make bubble tea, and there are a few simple recipes you can try at home with the right ingredients. For a base, you can try Tea Drop’s Thai iced tea. Then, you’ll need tapioca pearls, heavy cream, ice, filtered water, dark brown sugar, and regular sugar. It’s also handy to have a glass teapot with an infuser, a milk frother, and an electric kettle.
Of course, you can play around with various bases and toppings depending on what your taste buds enjoy. There are tons of recipes out there, such as Oh, How Civilized’s bubble tea recipe, which shows you how to make bubble tea with a black tea base, tapioca balls, and a frothy cream topping. You can also try a jasmine green bubble tea with jasmine green tea, hot water, tapioca pearls, honey, milk, and ice. For a healthier option, try a recipe from Asia One which includes ingredients such as lemon, honey, mint leaves, rose petals, cinnamon, ginger, soy milk, brown rice, and fruit juice.
Experiment with different kinds of bubble teas to find the one you enjoy most. But with any recipe, be sure to have some wide tapioca straws on hand!
What are the health benefits of bubble tea?
The health benefits of bubble tea widely vary depending on the ingredients you choose to add to your drink. Generally speaking, sweetened bubble tea is not that great for you as it contains lots and lots of sugar — in fact, just one cup of bubble tea contains 335 calories, according to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB). The boba itself is the highest caloric ingredient in the drink. That said, there are ways to make your drink healthier by including less sugar or syrup, using non-fat or soy milk, and forgoing the tapioca pearls. Given the many ways to make bubble tea, it’s totally possible to create a bubble tea drink with health benefits. Here are just a few of the potential health benefits of bubble tea:
It can be good for your heart.
If you nix most of the sugar and the boba in bubble tea, the drink actually has some anti-inflammatory elements and antioxidants that “can strengthen the blood vessel walls and prevent the arteries from forming plaque,” according to Koi Tea.
It can be an anti-inflammatory and help your skin.
Using a green tea base is a great way to reap some of the health benefits of bubble tea. According to Penn Medicine’s research, “green tea has a possible impact on liver, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. This tea variety has also shown to be anti-inflammatory, which helps keep your skin clear and glowing.” Be sure to avoid a green tea latte-type base, which has lots of sugar.
It can be a source of calcium and protein.
If you’re using a caffeinated base, such as Thai tea, you’ll get some of the benefits of condensed milk, which, according to Nidirect Government Services (Nidirect) of the UK, is a “source of calcium and protein. While calcium helps our bones grow strong, our bodies require protein to function properly.”
Of course, take these health benefits with a grain of salt — or a grain of sugar, shall we say? Bubble tea is usually highly caloric and people drink it for the taste, not the health benefits. But even though you’ll be hard-pressed to find healthy boba tea alternatives at a boba tea cafe, you can make healthier options at home with select ingredients.
Bubble tea, boba tea, pearl tea — whatever you want to call it — is a delicious drink that comes in so many varieties. Have fun picking and choosing the combinations you like best, whether that’s a slushy boba tea in the summer, or a warm boba milk tea in the winter. If nothing else, you’ll have fun sucking up those little boba pearls through a big ole’ colorful straw!
Rose Earl Grey Milk Tea Recipe
Check out this recipe for Rose Milk Tea made with Rose Earl Grey Tea Drops-- Easy and quick to do at home!
Here's what you'll need:
1/2 cup milk
3 oz hot water
1 cup ice
Dissolve Tea Drop in hot water, pour over cup of ice. Top off with milk, add boba and stir. Enjoy!