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What is Boba? A guide to ordering guilt-free milk tea.

Author: Amelia Ong APD

Boba a.k.a bubble milk tea a.k.a pearl milk tea started from Taiwan. It started becoming more popular in the 1980s when a hawker stall vendor combined boba at the bottom, shaved ice and filled the rest of the drinks with milk tea. It became a hit, and now the topping choices have expanded beyond boba to elements such as grass jelly, pudding, cheese foam and red beans.

With so many options available, there are one drinks for everyone, and it is so hard to endure the temptation of bubble tea. There are bubble tea shops everywhere and calling out your name when you shop. I believe in having everything in moderation, and we should not suppress our craving in the extreme. In this article, I'll breakdown each ingredient and components in bubble tea and stay tuned to the end of the blog for a quick guide to choosing the healthiest milk tea.

How much calorie and sugar is in a cup of milk tea?

A hospital in Singapore has recently released a report comparing the sugar and calorie levels of various types of bubble teas and their toppings. Brown sugar milk tea with boba has been found as the unhealthiest option with 18.5 teaspoons of sugar. For an easy reference, a can of regular coke contains 7 teaspoons of sugar; a cup of brown sugar milk tea with pearl is equivalent to 2.6 cans of coke.

Image: Facebook/Mount Alvernia Hospital

What is the recommended sugar intake in Australia?

There isn't currently a recommended daily intake level of sugar in Australia. However, WHO has a new guideline which recommends that our daily sugar intake should not exceed 10% of our total kilojoule intake. For an adult Australian on a diet of 8700kJ a day, staying under 10% of total energy means consuming nor more than 55g or 13 teaspoons of sugar per day. Having just one cup of brown sugar milk tea with pearl would exceed the daily sugar intake.

Image: Facebook/Mount Alvernia Hospital

Mount Alvernia Hospital warns that toppings such as jellies and pearls are kept in a sweet syrup to keep them moist, which adds to the drink’s sugar and calorie count

A quick guide on ordering a guilt-free milk tea

  1. Adjust the sugar level - there are different sugar levels options to choose when ordering (100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, none). If you are used to getting full sugar, try reducing it to 75% and gradually reducing it to 50% and eventually to none!

  2. Order fewer toppings (or go topping-free!) or toppings with fewer calories such as aloe vera, white pearls and Aiyu jelly. Milk foam and cheese foam has topped the chart with 203 and 180 calories in each serving.

  3. Don't fall into the trap of fruit tea or fruit-based drinks. They might seem healthy, but they are, in fact, worse choices. The study above has found out that the sugar content of passion fruit green tea (8.5 teaspoons) exceeds milk tea with pearls (8 teaspoons). Fruits such as passionfruit and grapefruits have a strong tart taste. To make it taste palatable, they would have to add plenty of sugar into the drinks. TIPS! Order plain teas instead. Teas such as green, oolong and black tea have zero calories when there is nothing added to them.

  4. Go small! In that way, you can satisfy your craving but also reduce both calorie and sugar intake.

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