Bubble tea calories is a dreaded topic among boba lovers. Who wants to think about calories when they are sipping and chewing the delicious elixir that is bubble tea?
But alas, bubble tea is quickly becoming a staple food item in the diet among many of its fans. Therefore, the nutritional value of the sweet treat is something that we need to be aware of.
We need to ensure the calories fit into our daily diet as healthy customers. Besides, if we want to continue enjoying the tasty boba beverage, it would be good for us to understand how many calories are in the bubble tea we drink.
This is so that we learn how to balance boba with our other meals throughout the day and week. The more we can factor in the delicious drink in our regular diet without compromising health, the more boba we can enjoy!
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Today, boba drinks are no longer a mystery food item in both the East and the West. What started as a Taiwanese iced milk tea with chewy tapioca pearls has now evolved to become so colourful in flavours, ingredients as well as aesthetics.
We boba lovers over the years have spoken for more diversity and healthier options. As a result, the boba stores have positively responded! Today, there are more healthy customisation choices available than ever before to its patrons.
Because of that, the race towards making the healthiest bubble tea with low calories is an ongoing one.
Disclaimer about the nutritional value standards
For this article, we have compiled the nutritional value of popular bubble tea flavours and orders based on the findings of Hong Kong nutritionist Hayley Leung from Helpthy Wellness and Feibi, a Taiwan based nutritionist.
Calorie values of the drinks below are based on 700 ml or 24 oz serving. Unless specified, we assume that all drinks are ordered at a full-sugar level. We refer to the amount of milk, sugar and toppings added based on the average serving of boba shops in Taiwan as per the referred analysis.
The calorie counter for each ingredient may differ from one shop to another, but the figures provided here are to be taken as an approximation for comparative purposes.
How Many Calories In Bubble Tea?
First of all, let us start with the most basic bubble milk tea calories. It is made from black tea from bags or loose leaves soaked in hot water. Then, It is mixed with a milk base from a creamer. To finish off, tapioca pearls are added to the drink.
We calculate that for a 700 ml or 24 oz serving of bubble milk tea, which is usually the large cup size in most boba shops, the total bubble tea calories are 700 kcal. This is for a full-sugar serving that contains 60 g of sugar.
Let’s assume that the daily maintenance calories for an average adult man are 2,500 kcal, and for an average adult woman are 2,000 kcal. In this case, one cup of 700 ml bubble milk tea would take about one-third of the daily required calorie intake.
Accordingly, we could even consider a cup of the beverage as a meal replacement from a nutrition point of view. Therefore, we find this quite concerning as many boba fans consider the beverage as an after-meal treat!
|Bubble Milk Tea
|Brown Sugar Milk Tea
|Bubble Fresh Milk Tea
|Fresh Milk Tea
|Milk Foam Green Tea
|Milk Tea/Green Milk Tea
|Mixed Fruit Tea
|Passionfruit Black Tea
|Taro Fresh Milk
|Taro Milk Tea
|Rose Milk Tea
Based on Flavours
What about the bubble tea calories of other flavours and variations? With different combinations of ingredients, the amount of energy packed into each variation would differ as well.
For the popular Mudflip, the brown sugar bubble tea has calories of about 620 kcal. It has typically a lower calorie count than regular milk tea. Therefore, we infer that this is owed to the calorific difference between brown sugar and regular white sugar. We will discuss this in more detail in the section below.
For fruit-based flavours, the calorie count typically drops. For example, passion fruit bubble tea calories are only at 300 kcal. The same goes for the calories in mango bubble tea and strawberry bubble tea.
The main reason for this reduction is the reduced amount of milk and creamer used to make fruity boba drinks. Many fruits have their own distinct taste. Hence, we deduce that shops decrease the amount of these base ingredients to allow the customers to fully enjoy the fruity flavours.
However, taro-based drinks have a calorie count that is quite high. If we remove the tapioca pearls, regular fresh milk tea has approximately 390 kcal.
In comparison, taro milk tea has 490 kcal in one serving. The bubble tea calories of taro drinks would be fairly high if the chewy pearls were added in further.
Based on Stores
But what about the differences between stores? We were curious to find out if there would be a large disparity between different boba shops. Hence, to assess this further, we compared two popular chains, Chatime and Coco.
We bring up the common milk tea with tapioca pearls once again for comparison. This bubble tea calories from Chatime is 550 kcal. Meanwhile, the same pearl drink in Coco has calories of about 654 kcal.
We gather that the difference in calories here depends on each store’s recipe for the drink. Because of that, each store's nutritional balance of their drinks would also be unique.
However, as the basic ingredients of a particular flavour would be similar between stores, patrons should be able to expect the same range of calorie counts.
Next, we look into what are the factors that do and do not matter when analysing the nutritional value of the celebrated drink.
Factors of Calories
As we have seen above, there a few major factors that significantly contribute to the bubble tea calories. Depending on how we choose to customise our boba drink with differing base ingredients such as tapioca pearls, creamer and sweetening agent, the calorie count will vary.
Let’s look at how we can change the base ingredients to change the milk tea calories to our benefit.
|Bubble Tea Toppings
An interesting fact that we found is that the tapioca pearls used in this Asian treat were originally smaller than the typical boba that we see today. The chewy balls were originally sized at 1/12 inches, which is why it was commonly referred to as pearl milk tea in Taiwan.
However, to add to the wow factor of the beverage, the size of the pearls added to the beverage was increased. The larger sized pearls called ‘boba’ were now ¼ inches and consequently contributed to a higher bubble tea calorie count.
The word ‘boba’ was actually a kinky slang in Chinese that meant ‘big-breasted lady’. Due to this, we think that that helped with the marketing of the drink in its early days. However now, boba is used interchangeably with tapioca pearls.
Today, there are many types of tapioca pearls that are offered in shops. For every 15 g of regular boba topping, about 280 kcal are added to the drink.
We need to take note that while white boba only contains cassava root, the brown ones contain brown sugar. The added sugar into the pearls increases the overall milk tea calorie count.
We also observe many stores now offering ‘popping’ tapioca pearls. These pearls contain sweetened fruity gels which burst upon chewing. The sweeteners are made up of sugary syrup that add to the bubble tea calories.
While boba is the most common topping, there are also other additions that are popular today. Regular choices are coconut jelly, grass jelly, red bean, aloe vera, sago, pudding and more.
Generally, all these other toppings are not as dense with calories compared to the regular tapioca pearls. For example, 15 g of grass jelly only has 30 kcal and 15 g of pudding only has 120 kcal.
So, if you like these alternatives, you can go ahead knowing that they do not have such a high-calorie count!
Creamer and milk
Another important factor to bubble tea calories is the creamer or milk used for the beverage. It is common for stores to use creamer, half-and-half, full dairy milk, skimmed milk, or non-dairy milk.
The creamer and half-and-half (half milk and half cream) overall have higher fat content. Therefore, they have higher calories. This is the reason why bubble milk tea made with fresh milk has lower calories.
In many boba shops in London, non-dairy options are always available due to the increasing demand for plant-based milk. Some options offered are almond milk, soy milk, oat milk and coconut milk.
As a general rule, plant-based milk usually has a lower per cup calorie count than full dairy milk.
We would also like to make a special note on the recently trending cheese-fondue series. An example is the Rock Salted Cheese boba series offered by Happy Lemon.
The addition of cheese as a creamy layer would significantly increase the bubble tea calorie. This is because of the high-fat content that cheese inherently contains.
Depending on the store from which you source your beverage, the sweeteners used will be different. Common sweeteners used in boba are white sugar, brown sugar, sugar syrup, fructose and honey.
The bulk of the bubble tea calories come from the sweeteners. For a 700 ml drink, 240 kcal comes from the 60 g of white sugar within the full-sugar beverage. However, if the same amount of brown sugar is used, the amount decreases to 225 kcal.
As an easy way to reduce the calories, the stores will usually request the customers to specify the level of sugar level they would like for their order. Therefore, if you’re concerned about reducing sugar intake, we recommend you pick either any of the less-sugar options.
Some shops may also offer sugar-free sweetener options such as Aspartame, Stevia and Sucralose. If possible, you may want to choose a sugar-free sweetener to reduce your calories.
We would also like to list out a few factors that do not materially contribute to the bubble tea calories.
When making your order, there may be options such as getting the beverage hot or cold, choosing the ice level as well as having the drink shaken or blended. There usually are also diverse tea options such as green tea, jasmine tea, oolong tea and more.
The above options are definitely crucial to a boba lover when ordering a refreshing experience in a cup. However, they should not trouble the customer regarding their calories.
How to Reduce Calories
Considering the major factors that contribute to milk tea calories, we recommend the following steps to those who want to reduce their bubble tea calories.
When ordering any flavoured boba drink, choose a lower level of sugar for the drink. Just this step would already notably lower the number of calories.
Next, we recommend you request fresh milk to be used instead of creamers. By reducing the fat content that comes from creamers, we can further lessen the calorie count.
When possible, choose non-dairy milk options. This is because they generally have lower calories and may actually add a twist to the taste of your sweet drink.
Not having any toppings would be best if you are just aiming for low calories. However, if that is too much to ask for, we propose that you go for white pearls instead of brown pearls.
Otherwise, you could also select alternative toppings like sago, jelly or pudding that can replace the higher calorie boba pearls.
By adopting the above steps, we assure you that the bubble tea calories would decrease.
Having said all this, we recognise that ordering the lowest calorie beverage does not directly translate to the healthiest bubble tea.
Reducing the number of calories within a drink that is usually considered as a sweet after-meal snack is good policy to have. However, we need to look into many components of a food item before we can be sure that it is healthy for us.
With the ubiquitousness of the boba beverage today, we would do good for ourselves to also understand its various health benefits. In addition to that, it is also crucial that we become aware of the health risks that drinking boba poses.
Evaluating the healthiness of this tasty beverage just by measuring the bubble tea calories does not suffice.
Bubble Tea Health Benefits
As a caffeinated liquid at its core, the boba drink is a mild diuretic that helps provide hydration to the body. In other words, it acts as a source of water which is important for various body functions.
The added hydration helps to cool the body, aids kidney function as well helps muscular and joint motion.
Similar to regular coffee, this sweet beverage that is filled with sugar and caffeine may act as a stimulant. By drinking bubble tea, we receive the energising effects of it that could help us get over the midday slump by keeping us awake.
This is a positive benefit we can gain when we choose to consume some bubble tea calories in the middle of the day.
Green tea which is a common option would also provide antioxidants that contribute to our longevity. By acting against the free radical formation and providing body cell protection, antioxidants are important for us to consume.
The tapioca pearls in boba drinks also have health benefits. As they are made of cassava roots which are full of resistant starch, bubble tea contributes to the regulation of our digestive systems.
The starch encourages the cultivation of good gut bacteria which are vital for our digestive tracts.
Bubble Tea Health Risks
Having said all this, not all consumption of bubble tea calories add to our health. We also need to recognise the health risks that come with uncontrolled boba obsession.
As mentioned, many boba fans out there think of the drink as an after-meal sweet treat. If we do not control consumption, this could possibly be dangerous due to the high calories and high sugar content.
There is research that shows the correlation between frequent bubble tea-drinking with the risk of weight gain, increased probability of type-2 diabetes as well as heart disease. Because of this, we should be mindful of the bubble tea calories and sugar content whenever we are craving it.
In contrast to the gut regulation benefit, overconsumption of tapioca pearls could lead to constipation. And we surely do not wish for anyone to have to experience that! Due to the starchy nature of the boba pearls, constipation is likely to happen to those who frequently consume tapioca pearls in large amounts.
We also recommend ordering the beverage at a lower sugar level as it could reduce the risk of damaging your teeth and skin.
When drinking the sugary drink over a period of time, the soaking of teeth in sugar could cause erosion, increased sensitivity and the development of cavities. When this is repeated many times, the risk of damage increases.
It is also important to keep in mind the bubble tea calories for the sake of your skin. This is because a high sugar diet has been shown to lead to acne development.
When more sugar is consumed, our bodies produce more insulin which affects the production of hormones that are required for skin oil production. Consequently, drinking too much boba too often may cause undesired damage to our skin.
Bubble Tea Calories
So, is it okay to drink bubble tea every day? With the information about milk tea calories and health considerations presented above, we will let you decide.
We think that bubble tea is an amazing dynamic beverage that can be catered for all types of palettes. With so many customisation options made available by boba shops, we recommend people to make healthier choices whenever possible.
Without fully compromising the enjoyment of the tea-drinking experience, consider both the health benefits and risks that come from drinking it.
So, avoid overconsumption and aim for a balanced diet. However, do treat yourself with a cup of boba from time to time!
What do you think is the healthiest bubble tea out there today? Let us know by dropping an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.