All about Bubble Tea: History, Recipes & Health Effects

How is it made? Is it healthy or not? All the answers here

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By Alex

Are you familiar with Bubble Tea (or Boba Tea)? Unless you live in a monastery in a remote island, in the last few years you have surely come across people on the street intent on sipping, from over-size glasses, a strange colored beverage with many strange balls deposited at the bottom.

If, on the other hand, you really live off the beaten path or have never paid attention, they were simply drinking a Bubble Tea, one of the drinks that are becoming increasingly popular around the world.

Want to find out more about it? In this post we explain what it is, its health effects and how you can prepare it at home.

What is Bubble Tea

It is a drink created in Taiwan in the 1980s. A snack-drink, we should say, as it is drunk and chewed at the same time!

It is a drink made from tea, milk and tapioca pearls. To be drunk strictly using a special straw larger than normal. This is the basic version to which, in short, numerous variations have been added.

Bubble tea has been popular for some years now in Asian countries. Westerners have only recently discovered it, but have already fallen in love with it, especially Americans. Also in Europe it is spreading rapidly.

Given its success, bubble tea stores are now everywhere. Bog chains have included this beverage in their menus and small shops selling only bubble tea have sprung up in the center, as well as in the suburbs of almost every city.

What is the origin of Bubble Tea

The origins of this extravagant drink sink in Taiwan in the 1980s. The term “Bubble” has a dual meaning: it recalls the bubbles you make with chewing gum, but it also has a connection to the term “Boba,” a Taiwanese word for tapioca pearls. That’s why it is also known as “Boba Tea“.

It was originally designed as an after-work drink, to refresh and refresh after a long, heavy day.

Is Bubble Tea healthy?

The answer is basically…. Not really! Although products served in different places may vary significantly, in general, these are high-calorie, high-fat drinks.

Typically, chain bubble teas are extremely sweet, and the amount of added sugar is not only unhealthy, but goes to cover up the other flavors. In smaller, dedicated shops, less sugary bubble teas are sometimes served. It goes without saying that we recommend low-sugar, small size bubble teas if you really love this drink.

bubble tea
Originating in Taiwan in the 1980s, this drink is conquering the U.S. and has recently caught on in Europe as well.

What are the ingredients of Bubble Tea

The basic ingredients are:

    • tea
    • milk
    • sweetener
    • tapioca pearls

Each ingredient can be used in any of its variations. But we will talk about that just later. The beauty of Bubble Tea lies precisely in this, in its versatility of preparation that gives different and colorful results every time!

What Tea to Use

Any type of tea can be used. From classic black tea to green tea or matcha. Be that as it may, the best kinds are those that have a robust flavor, such as black or jasmine tea. In fact, its taste must be felt even after the addition of milk and ice. Oolang tea is also often used.

What are tapioca pearls

Tapioca pearls are the product obtained by processing tapioca, a special starch derived from cassava, a shrub native to South America, also known as Yucca or Cassava. Tapioca pearls, raw are transparent, while after cooking they become darker.

Their use in Bubble Tea involves boiling: in fact they are almost black and very soft.

They do not have a particularly strong flavor, but they need something to give them a little taste and sweetness. They are therefore left soaked in food syrups and toppings (in a variety of flavors and colors!) until the Bubble tea is prepared. At this point the pearls, are placed in the bottom of the glass that will contain the drink. The function of the pearls, then, is not to flavor the drink, but to add texture and a very unique appearance!

Tapioca is gluten-free, so green light to this fashionable drink even for those with celiac disease.

Milk

The best milk for making Bubble Tea is whole or semi-skimmed. As with tea, variants such as vegetable milks can also be used for milk. The important thing is that it is a medium fat milk so that it manages to add consistency and creaminess to the drink. Skimmed milk or too watery vegetable milk (e.g. rice or oat milk) do not give enough creaminess and the risk is that of obtaining a tasteless Bubble Tea.

Among the various types of vegetable milks, soy milk is probably the number one choice.

Sweetener

Which sweetener to use here? It all depends on personal tastes, both for the type of sweetener to add and for the quantity to be used: cane sugar, honey, agave syrup… If you use a plant-based milk that has already been sweetened, you can also avoid the sugar in way to save calories.

This premise applies to home-brewed Bubble Tea. A separate discussion – and a sore point – concerns the Bubble Teas purchased in the now famous chains. In fact, the products that are served here are a riot of sugars. Not surprisingly, a 200 ml glass of an average classic type provides from 300 to 500 calories!

How to prepare Bubble Tea at home: the recipe

Since not everywhere you can find Bubble Tea stores, and also since home production in addition to being certainly cheaper allows you to decrease calories a lot, here is the recipe to prepare it yourself at home.

Ingredients

  • 60 g tapioca pearls
  • 500 ml of water
  • Tea (in leaves or sachet depending on custom)
  • 100 ml of milk (cow or vegetable according to taste)

For the syrup

  • 150 ml water
  • 100 gr of brown sugar
  • A choice of: pieces of fruit in syrup and fruit or coconut jelly, nectar or juice

Method

Soak the tapioca pearls in water for 1 hour and in the meantime prepare the syrup: bring 150 ml water to a boil, dissolve the whole cane sugar in it, turn off the heat and let it cool. Add any toppings and pieces of fruit to taste.

To Prepare the tea

Rinse the tapioca pearls from the soaking water and cook them 5 minutes in boiling water. Drain and rinse them in cold water.

Place all ingredients in a shaker and shake for a few moments. Serve with the appropriate straws.

How to store it

This is a great recipe if consumed immediately.

How many flavors of Bubble Tea are there

In terms of flavors–and consequently colors–you are spoiled for choice.

Classic Fruits

The most classic versions have fruity flavors.

  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Plum
  • Peach
  • Strawberry

Exotic Fruits

Also on the fruit theme, there are then tropical flavors.

Gourmet Flavors

There are also variants with decidedly yummy flavors that are impossible to resist.

  • Almond
  • Coffee
  • Pudding (chocolate or custard)
  • Barley
  • Caramel
  • Chocolate

Floral Flavors

There are even versions with floral flavors.

Summer bubble tea

This is a drink that does not follow a seasonality. To make it more refreshing, a few ice cubes should be added in summer.

What are the health effects of bubble tea?

It is a drink that can offer some health benefits, but it should be made clear that it can also contain added sugars and other substances that can have negative health effects if consumed in excess.

Here are some possible benefits:

  • Some benefits of tea used in the preparation of bubble tea are included: tea contains reduce oxidative stress and the risk of chronic diseases.
  • It contains caffeine, which can help improve energy and concentration.
  • Depending on the type of tea used it may also have calming properties, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • The tapioca pearls contain fibers, which can help improve digestion and bowel regularity.
  • the milk used to prepare it may contain vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals essential for bone health.

As I anticipated, it may contain added sugars, which can increase the calorie content of the drink, and some variants may contain additives such as artificial dyes and flavorings, which can have adverse health effects if consumed regularly.

To enjoy the possible health benefits of bubble tea, it is important to choose variants that contain less added sugar and natural ingredients. In addition, it is important to consume bubble tea in moderation and as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

Calorie content

This is certainly not a low-calorie food. Especially Bubble Teas served in special chains contain a really high amount of sugar, as well as colorings, preservatives and additives. On average, a 200 ml glass contains 300 to 500 calories. Depending on the flavor you choose.

Tips for light variants

If you pay attention to your figure, you don’t necessarily have to give up Bubble Tea. It is in fact possible to create lighter versions. Here are some ways to cut calories:

  • replace the sugar syrup with agave or stevia syrups
  • use low-calorie milk, such as unsweetened soy milk
  • eliminate the milk and use coconut water instead, which has only 19 calories
  • replace the tapioca pearls with chia seeds

Curiosities

Bubble Tea is drunk with special straws that are larger in diameter than regular straws because they must be able to absorb the tapioca balls as well.

More on this topic

If you liked this article, here are some other interesting articles and more (healthy) drinks to discover: