Those trendy, addicting drinks that we call “bubble tea” are bad for you. The tea is fine, but what is at the bottom of your drink is the problem. Bubble tea is well-known for its chewy, black balls: boba. Also known as tapioca pearls, the balls originated from Taiwan and made its way through America. Boba is usually served with milk tea and smoothies but can also be toppings for shaved ice and cakes; many consider it to be their favorite dessert.
In fact, I was one of the people who had a love for boba but a very strong one. From December of 2017, I always went to my favorite boba place at least once a week, but in May of 2018, my regular visits were no longer seen. I quit drinking boba after reading several articles about how the balls affect one’s health and contained high amounts of sugar.
We know that soda can be bad when we drink it often but have you thought the same for boba too? Like soda, bubble tea is unhealthy in various ways.
Tapioca pearls have cancer-causing chemicals that cause harmful effects to our immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. According to Reader’s Digest, “In 2012, a group of German researchers from the University Hospital Aachen reportedly found traces of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in tapioca ball samples.” Polychlorinated biphenyls are man-made chemicals that are oily liquids or solids and can lead to cancer. Although experts found boba contained acetophenone and brominated biphenyls, they stated that the compounds were too small to affect one’s health. However, there is a possibility one can have cancer when the pearls are excessively consumed.
According to Berkeley Wellness, “A cup of tapioca beads contains 540 calories, so adding one-fourth cup of them to milk tea translates into an additional 135 calories.” Not only does boba contain many calories but they also are mostly carbohydrates, meaning they lack minerals, vitamins, and fiber. A 16-ounce bubble milk tea is 100 percent sugar and typically contains 100 grams of sugar.
According to the American Heart Association, it is recommended that women should consume 25 grams or less of sugar a day and men should consume 38 grams or less of sugar. That means a 16-ounce bubble milk tea clearly exceeds the limit of recommended sugar intake. This also means that people who regularly drink boba should stop chewing the sweet candy-like tapioca balls or reduce drinking it to once a month.
Despite these health concerns, these sweet drinks continue to grow in popularity as people chew them deliciously in desserts. But, next time you happen to stop by a boba shop, remember what boba will do to you and order a drink without the tapioca pearls.
Holly Bae, Grade 9
La Canada High School