Boba milk tea…healthy?


By Anna Bui, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Intern

Boba. Pearl milk tea. Bubble tea. Whatever you call this sweet, delectable, Taiwan based drink it has sure grown in popularity. The supposed origin of bubble tea was in Taiwan during the 1980’s. Since then boba shops are popping up everywhere. In our own little cowtown many UC Davis students are familiar with these shops: ManDro Teahouse, OnTap, T4, TeaBo Cafe, Lazi Cow, Gong Cha, The Old Teahouse, ShareTea, Honey D Cafe, i-Tea, and the newest addition, Akira Coffee & Tea. There certainly are plenty to choose from!

The rise in popularity of milk tea is projected to continue in the United States. According to a report by Allied Market Research, the global milk tea market was valued at $1.9 billion in 2016. By 2023 it is projected to reach $3.2 billion. Definitely beloved, but is milk tea good for us?

Healthy Misconception?

There are many benefits to the consumption of green/ black tea. To name a few, green tea is known to have antioxidants, which lower risk of cardiovascular disease, LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure. Although milk tea contains green tea, it doesn’t ‘un-do’ the excessive amounts of added sugar. Just because milk tea has “tea”, is it healthier than other sugary drinks (eg soda)? Not hardly. Compare a 16 fl oz Coca Cola , 190 kcals and 52g of added sugar, to Kung Fu Tea, 16 fl oz Milk Tea, 180kcals and 25g of sugar.  Plus if you add the very popular Boba topping (272 kcal and 67.5 g carbohydrate (USDA)) you’ve just outdone Coca Cola.

Healthier Alternatives

If you are craving milk tea, you have some options!

  1. Adjust the sugar level – many milk tea shops allow you the option to adjust a drink’s sugar level. This can range from 100% to 0% sweetness. It may be difficult to completely transition to 0% if you typically drink milk tea at 100% sweetness. Start out with a small reduction first, like opting for 80% sugar; gradually decrease.
  2. Opt for a small size serving – enjoy just enough to satisfy your craving.
  3. Limit toppings – just opting out of boba is helpful; or ask for a half serving.
  4. Opt for regular tea! – using a simple tea bag can not only cut down calories and added sugar, but also is cheaper!

Boba milk tea is delicious. Limiting the amount of “boba trips” per week, reducing the amount of toppings, and adjusting the sugar level will help cut down excessive sugar intake over the long term.

Are you a boba fan?  Will you try something new?


Bubble Tea Market Expected to Reach $3,214 Million, Globally by 2023,

Kung Fu Tea | Fresh – Innovative – Fearless Leading Tea Brand,



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