A huge calorie contributor in this drink is its sugar content. “The amount in this drink makes it unhealthy,” says Karen Wright, a dietitian at The Food Clinic. Based on the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) guidelines, we should limit our sugar fix to 10 per cent of our daily energy intake. That’s approximately 40g to 55g (eight to 11 teaspoons) a day. Just one cup of bubble tea, however, contains six teaspoons – that’s almost 55 per cent of our recommended daily intake at one go.
Then there are the pearls that lend the drink its name. Made from tapioca starch and brown sugar, they’re the biggest contributor to the drink’s calorie count. HPB says a 313g serving of these pearls has 441 calories. Given that most bubble teas contain 60g of these sweet, chewy balls, that’s 85 calories in a cup. Doesn’t sound like much? Well, a cup of plain red bubble tea (360g) without the pearls has just 112 calories. Do the math: The pearls make up just one-sixth of the drink’s serving size but a whopping 85 per cent of its total calorie count.
Is bubble tea addictive? The jury is still out on that. However, a Taiwanese survey found that 15 per cent of respondents had at least one cup of the high-calorie beverage every day, and 2.7 per cent said they drank three cups daily. “You need to look at it in the context of your overall diet. If you really enjoy bubble tea, it should be as an occasional indulgence, limited to just once a week,” says Wright. Though the milk in the tea is nutritionally beneficial, it’s better to just drink fresh milk instead. Nonetheless, she adds that you wouldn’t be missing out on any essential nutrient if you drop bubble tea from your menu totally.