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May 20, 2002 03:04 PM

Is bubble tea good for you?

  • s

I love the bubble tea that's taking over Chinatown by storm - you know, with those fat straws so you can suck up the chewy black tapioca pearls at Sts. Alps? But I was wondering just how healthy these delicious drinks really are. I always get the milk tea with tapioca pearls. Does anyone know if they really high in fat and calories?

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  1. Good question..I hope the answer is that they are good for you because I have a major addiction to bubble tea.

    I would imagine that you could find out the fat and calorie number for them by just breaking down the components. I don't think tapioca is very high in either fat or calories. The milk is easy to figure out. The sugar isn't great for you, but it's a lot less sugar than a Coke. And then if you are getting a green tea drink you have the anti-oxidant effects which is very good for you. I say 'drink up!'

    My fave place is Ten Ren (right next door to their tea store) because the taste is the best and not too sweet and their prices are the lowest. Fay Da bakery has bubble tea but theirs is a little too sweet for my tastes. There is also a place on St. Marks between 1st and A called something like East Pearl; their teas and smoothies are great and they have excellent snacks (I recommend the scallion pancake - it's very light and subtle, like how it would taste if this Chinese snack were made by the Japanese - hey, is!)

    11 Replies
    1. re: Kenzi

      Mama Mia - those drinks are very UN-healthy! They are loaded with sugar and essentially offer nil nutritional benefits. Think of it as an equal counterpart to those ridiculous coffee drinks - "an extra grande, caramel mocha macchiato with extra cream and a dash of vanilla".

      So, to summarize, treat them as a treat and not a balanced meal/food.

      1. re: FoodieGirl

        While they certainly aren't to be considered a meal, you could do far worse for a snack than these drinks. You get the antioxidants from tea (especially green tea) and tapioca, itself, is derived from the starchy cassara root. Yucca roots, cassara roots, etc. are all being studied more now by nutritionists because they contain a variety of compounds that appear to be beneficial in a variety of ways. Bottom line is that these drinks are yummy and yummy things are good for you.

        1. re: Bill Grey

          Well bad news, it's pretty high calorie if you're watching calories(who isn't in one way or another).

          While looking it up I found this comprehensive site of nutrition facts of mostly asian foods that I don't usually see accounted for like Dim Sum, Sushi, and various snacks.

          They say a one cup serving has 425 calories and 13.6 g of fat. I'd double that for your average serving.

          Enjoy in moderation,


          1. re: iron frank

            How could a cup of bubble tea have so much fat? It's just milk, right? And even whole milk only has something like 8 grams of fat per cup.

            1. re: JessicaSophia
              Caitlin McGrath

              Actually, Iron Frank misread the chart he was referring to, which is metric. The "one cup" listed is not a volume amount (the other listings on the page are "one bowl," "one glass," etc.). The volume amount is 425g, which is a little under 2 cups, the calories for that amount are 320, the fat 13.8, and the carbs around 52g. Makes a little more sense that way.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                Thanks for the correction. I got so flustered while totalling all of the calories I consume in my average bubble tea binge and misread the charts!


                1. re: Iron Frank

                  I absolutly love bubble tea. Had some in Philly's Chinatown. It was a black plum tea with the tapioca. Was a bit astringent but yummy. Can't imagine it having any fat at all, or having much sugar as there wasn't any fruit juice in it. This place (Good Taste Noodles) had a bubble tea menu which included fresh fruit with ice and sago. Does anyone know what sago is? Also mentioned was lychee black tea with nata de coco. Any takers on what that may be? Also, I actually have black tapioca cravings. Any idea or where it can be purchased?

                  1. re: Lyds

                    Once upon a time, I considered developing a bubble tea habit . With uncommon foresight, I pressed various tea makers (Sts. Alps and other Chinatown bubble tea purveyors) for ingredients. Often, the "milk" was not milk but either non-dairy creamer or half and half. So,
                    enjoy the bubble tea
                    let the bubble tea make you happy

                    But drink the bubble tea awares.

                    1. re: Lyds

                      At least in the Philippines, sago (sa-GUH) are little balls of tapioca. They are not tiny, like in tapioca pudding; and they are often a little smaller than those found in bubble tea. They are white and turn translucent when cooked. They don't have any flavor on their own and I most often encounter them:
                      1) Cooked in a thin caramel syrup and sold as an accompaniment to silky tofu (taho) sold for breakfast in the streets of Manila. The vendor walks with two hot buckets on a yoke -- one with sago and one with taho.
                      2) In ginataan, see Wikipedia for details.
                      3) In a drink called sago and gulaman. The gulaman cubes (which are like jello) and sago are in a sweet sugary drink.

                      Tapioca pearls can be found in many Asian grocery stores. Not sure which brand is best for bubble tea.

                      Not sure what lychee black tea is, but a lychee is a tropical fruit whose description can be found on Wikipedia. Depending on the season, you might be able to get fresh lychees at a Chinatown market. Canned ones are readily available at Chinese grocery stores.

                      And nata de coco I usually see in a Filipino dessert called halo-halo, or sometimes I find it in Filipino fruit salads. The translucent white cubes are smooth, with a gummy hard texture (like gummy candies that are too old or jello with too much gelatin), and a mild coconut flavor. Until I read the entry below, I had no idea fermentation was involved. This is available in cans or jars at Asian grocery stores, especially if they sell Filipino foods.

              2. re: iron frank

                Say it ain't so!!

                Well, a good option is the fruit bubble teas you can get at Ten Ren and other places. No milk--only tea and fruit juices/syrups.

                1. re: EatDrinkMan

                  Wikipedia explains what nata de coco is:

                  Nata de coco is a chewy, translucent, jelly-like food product produced by the bacterial fermentation of coconut water.

                  A small bubble tea (green tea with fruit) at Ten Ren probably contains no more sugar than a Snapple. I believe the milk that Ten Ren uses is sweetened condensed milk from the can.

          2. The calories, I thought, came from the starch in the pearls themselves. For me one drink is a meal. I do love them made with fresh fruit.

            1. Many of the drinks (milk tea, taro, strawberry, almond) are made from powders which contain lots of sugar and use fats as thickeners. Think of them as flavored, sugared, non dairy creamer powder.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Lixer

                Precisely! More often than not, it is not made from "real" tea. Everything is mixed from various flavoured powders which are shaken up to form the drink. Lots of sugar in it too so not the most healthy drink though very refreshing in summer.

              2. I think its funny how people think bubble tea is good for you....its tapioca (carbs) with tea, lots of sugar, and milk. I'm sure its healthier if you are drinking real teas and real fruit juices, but alot of places use flavoured syrups and flavoured powders which are full of sugar and other bad ingredients.

                The key is to find a good bubble tea place that doesn't use syrups or powders. However I don't think I have found one that doesn't use either ):

                3 Replies
                1. re: bitsubeats

                  I agree with you. Just because it's tea people automatically assume it's healthy. There are way too many chemicals in the flavored teas such as taro. I think the best way to make sure you don't get all that artificial stuff is to make your own bubble tea (which I have done).

                  1. re: bitsubeats

                    What if you get a non milky bubble tea with lychee instead of tapioca balls?

                    1. re: Dee Liza

                      You can get NON-FAT, LOW CAL, NO DAIRY version. Bubble Tea is easy to make. We make them at our restaurant and we use just Green Tea, The Flavor Syrup, SoyMilk (for people who can't have dairy), Tapioca Balls and either Stevia or Agave syrup.
                      I have to watch my weight too and addicted to this stuff, so I make a low cal, low fat version. Enjoy!!!! :)