Boba Milk Tea: Nutrition Facts, Benefits, Side-effects, And Preparation Tips

Written by Varsha Patnaik , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach

Are you a fan of boba milk tea? Have you heard the name? You must have come across boba milk tea in one of the cafes nearby.  Boba are small circular tapioca beads widely used to make boba milk tea or bubble tea. You can recognize one by the layer of these tapioca beads at the bottom of your milk tea or smoothie. This widely popular tea is more of a “subculture” in certain Asian countries like Singapore, Korea, and Thailand. In this article, we explore more about boba nutrition, its different flavors, benefits, possible side effects, and preparation tips.

Boba Milk Tea Nutrition Facts

A 16oz cup or 500ml makes for one serving of boba milk tea.  According to the USDA, a 16oz cup of boba milk tea contains the following (1):

  • Calories: 240
  • Total fat: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Total carbs: 56g
  • Sugar: 40g
  • Dietary fiber: 0g
  • Sodium: 38.4mg
  • Protein: 0g
  • Calcium: 250mg

As seen above, boba nutrition benefits are few. It is laden with sugar and calories, and the calcium is from the added milk which can be had as it is without the additional sugar.

Let’s still see if there are any possible health benefits of this sugary beverage.

Health Benefits Of Boba Milk Tea

When you have a serving of boba tea, you can expect to get the benefits of tea, milk, and tapioca. There are only a few things that can justify gulping down a glass of boba milk tea.

  • Antioxidants From The Tea

Since boba milk tea is made with milk and tea as its key ingredients, you can hope to gain some of the health benefits of the antioxidative polyphenols in the tea. The polyphenols and antioxidants content is based on the tea variety you opt for— black tea, green tea, etc. But again, all these are not pronounced enough and get easily outdone by the high sugar content of this beverage. You should rather go for a regular blend of your favorite tea to reap the corresponding benefits.

Made from cassava, boba beads are, as such gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. Boba tea made with almond milk and soy milk can be a suitable option for a vegan diet. Still, you need to be mindful of the milk used in the particular milk tea you order for if you are on a vegan diet.

  • Calcium From The Milk

Calcium is vital for the formation and maintenance of bone and plays an important role in blood vessel relaxation, muscle contraction, and nerve physiology as well (2). A deficiency of calcium can lead to osteoporosis and many other associated health complications. Milk is an important source of dietary calcium (3). One serving of boba milk tea provides you with 250g of calcium i.e 25% of your dietary allowance for a day (1). That is a good amount to help you meet your calcium requirements along with a calcium-enriched, balanced diet.

  • Improves Salivary Components

Drinking bubble tea can help improve the quality of your saliva. Chewing on the tapioca pearls has been shown to add more calcium to your saliva. It also helps decrease the levels of C-reactive proteins that are indicative of inflammation (4).

Let’s explore the different names and variations you can possibly find of this pearl-lined beverage.

Varieties Of Boba/Other Common Names For Boba Tea

Boba tea is also known as bubble tea, pearl milk tea, tapioca tea, boba milk tea, and boba juice ball drink, pearl shake.

Boba tea is usually made up of 4 basic ingredients— the starchy tapioca pearls, the milk, the tea, and the sugar/sweetener syrup. Based on the tea variety and the type of fruit syrup added, it can have other variations to its name.

It is usually served cold with a wide straw to suck up the tapioca pearls along with the drink.

Negative Health Impacts Of Boba

Boba fills us with empty calories and sugars without providing us with any significant nutrition. It is basically a sugar-rich drink to be had occasionally as a dessert since an excess of it would only do more harm than good.

  • High In Sugar

Boba milk teas are sugar-dense beverages. A single serving of boba tea contains at least 40 grams of sugar, or possibly even more based on the variation you opt for. Most of the sugar is from the added sweetener, fruit syrups, and flavorings. The tapioca pearls are also most often soaked in a sugary solution before being added to the sugar-laden boba tea. This exceeds the recommended limit of added sugar intake and is potentially harmful to your health overall (5).

  • Food Allergies

In case you are lactose-intolerant or allergic to soy or nuts, you should avoid having boba milk tea.

The boba or tapioca pearls are made from cassava, a starchy root vegetable primarily grown in Thailand and Nigeria. Though tapioca allergy is not commonly heard of, few people might be still intolerant to the high amount of starch content. Also improper or unhygienic preparation like inadequate soaking, cooking, or fermenting of the cassava root might lead to possible complications and digestive disturbances. Some people allergic to latex might be allergic to cassava as well (6).

Some tapioca flours might also contain preservatives and added sulfite, so you might need to avoid boba tea if you are sulfite intolerant.

Make Boba Milk Tea At Home

When you buy bubble tea from a cafe, you can’t control what goes into your boba tea. Making Boba tea at home can’t take away all the sugar and calories but can at least help reduce the amount considerably.

  • Make it with skimmed milk and a strong brew of your favorite tea.
  • Add a dash of honey in place of all the artificial fruit syrups and sweeteners.
  • Avoid the cream or any flavor top-ups.

Recipes And Preparation Tips

The small tapioca beads come dried and packed in large bags. These are prepared by soaking, boiling, and draining them. It is when cooked that they take on a sift slippery texture and are then added to the varieties of boba tea. These are chewy in texture and have some sweetness of their own. They are further spiked with sugar concentrates or fruit syrups to enhance the sweetness of the drink.

In other “popping” versions, the boba pearls come packaged in watery solutions as ready-to-eat tiny sacs filled with sugar syrups or fruit juices. These burst out the juicy sweetness on chewing and add the corresponding flavor to the tea.

There are DIY boba tea kits available for both varieties. The bursting or popping variety can come in different fruit flavors of mango, strawberry, passionfruit, kiwi, etc. There are many videos available online to walk you through the process of making boba tea at home. While you can control the amount of sugar that goes in, you still can’t get away without the starch, high carbohydrate, and low-nutrient calories of the boba pearls.

Making a classic boba milk tea would require the below basic ingredients:

  • Tea
  • Tapioca balls
  • Milk or non-dairy beverages like soy, coconut, or almond milk.
  • Plenty of sugar concentrate, fruit syrups, or other sweeteners.

The simplest, least calorie-dense variety of boba tea you can make is with a strong brew of green or black tea, honey, and tapioca balls. You can also have the boba beads in cold coffee, milkshakes, or smoothies.

To Wrap Up

Boba, boba milk tea, bubble tea, or pearl milk tea is primarily a sugar-laden sweet beverage apt only for occasional treats. Low in nutrients and high in calories, indulge in this fancy drink in moderation and only if you don’t have any of the possible allergies. However, you can get calcium from the milk, antioxidants from tea, and the energy boost from tapioca along with the exotic fruity flavors. But then these tend to get overshadowed by the excess sugar and artificial flavorings. The only healthier version of boba is when you make it at home with strongly brewed tea and natural sweeteners.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is boba tea healthier than soda?

No. A single serving of boba actually has two times the amount of sugar in one can of coca-cola (7).

Which boba tea is the healthiest?

Boba made at home with a strong brewed green or black tea and honey can be the healthiest version of boba you can get.

Is boba tea keto-friendly?

Boba is rich in carbohydrates and sugars with no protein content and thus not suitable for a keto diet.

Does boba milk tea help lose weight?

Though boba is low in cholesterol and fats, it doesn’t help lose weight as it is loaded with sugar and starch.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. BOBA, BUBBLE TEA, GREEN TEA, LYCHEE BOBAS
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/431202/nutrients
  2. Dietary Calcium
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549792/
  3. Calcium in Dairy Products
    https://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(87)80305-3/pdf
  4. Quality improvement of saliva by chewing tapioca pearls in bubble tea drinks: a randomized experimental trial
    https://f1000research.com/articles/10-56/v1
  5. Calories and sugars in boba milk tea: Implications for obesity risk in Asian Pacific Islanders
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299494793_Calories_and_sugars_in_boba_milk_tea_Implications_for_obesity_risk_in_Asian_Pacific_Islanders
  6. Allergy to cassava: a new allergenic food with cross-reactivity to latex
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18088025/
  7. Coca-Cola Life Can, 12 fl oz
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/771674/nutrients
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