The Real Truth Behind Bubble Tea

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Ordering bubble tea can be a stressful experience. Your heart is telling you at least 70% sugar level but your brain is saying “make it 20%”.

When bubble tea first came to Singapore in 1992, sugar levels weren’t even a thing. But everything changed when the mega bubble tea franchises came into the picture. People now had the option to be healthy and 0% sugar bubble tea became a reality.

But what if we told you that no matter what sugar level you choose, bubble tea is still that guilty pleasure that has virtually zero nutritional value? And that the one defining ingredient that makes the drink unhealthy is actually its pearls.

In 2013, people were panicking over the rumour that tapioca pearls had deadly toxins. It wasn’t a far fetched rumour since tapioca starch is essentially made from the root of the cassava plant - a plant that naturally produces CYANIDE.

To the relief of bubble tea fans, the rumour was debunked. Commercial grade tapioca starch is properly processed so that all the toxins are weeded out.

But don’t cheer just yet. Although our heavenly little QQ pearls may not be toxic, they have zero nutritional value. Tapioca pearls may just be your biggest enemy if you’re trying to lose weight. To understand just how carb-loaded our pearls are, we gotta start at the root of the problem.

The cassava root is a major source of calories and carbs. It contains 38 grams of carbs for every 100 grams of the root. That’s more than twice the amount of what potatoes contain!

If you thought processing the cassava root into bubble tea pearls will greatly reduce the carb count, you’re wrong. According to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB), one cup of 0% sugar Milk Tea with pearls contains close to 44 grams of carbs. And most of this comes from the pearls themselves.

Basically, tapioca pearls are merely empty carbs which serve no other real purpose than to fill your stomach. We knew they were too good to be true. Consuming this many empty carbs will also land you a very, very long toilet break.

Tapioca starch can be a good source of fibre, but eating too many pearls may give you bowel issues. Tapioca starch is used sparingly in normal cooking, but our bodies just can’t digest too much of it.

For bubble tea drinkers, having bad bowel movements is only the start of our problems. The unassuming black pearls actually contain brown sugar. In fact, that’s the magic ingredient that gives the pearls their colouring.

Nowadays bubble tea pearls no longer just come in black, golden pearls have also entered the market. But don’t be deceived by their lighter colour. These pearls are just made with a different type of sugar.

If you still order pearls with your 0% sugar bubble tea, we’re sorry to burst your bubble. Pearls are the ultimate killjoy if you’re looking to enjoy a totally sugar-free drink.

Earlier this year, Channel News Asia spilled the tea on bubble tea sugar levels. Apparently, a cup of brown sugar milk tea with pearls contains 3 times more sugar than a can of coke.

We’re not saying that you can’t drink bubble tea. It’s hard to even imagine a world without it. The key to drinking bubble tea is balance and moderation.

Choose lower sugar levels if adding pearls, or swap your pearls for more nutritional toppings instead.

Aloe vera has plenty of antioxidants and can help to reduce blood sugar levels. Aiyu jelly is also full of vitamins and dietary fibre, which regulates your metabolism and decreases cholesterol levels.

Once you’ve mastered the fine art of ordering bubble tea, you can treat yoself with no guilt whatsoever.