Let’s look at boba in its entirely to see how much sugar a typical boba drink will have. We will examine the tapioca pearls, and other common components in bubble tea drinks to find out.
The USDA recommends that an individual consumes no more than 10 percent of their daily calorie intake as sugars. This is to avoid tooth decay and obesity, which many believe is linked to sugar intake.
Are tapioca pearls full of sugar?
This is probably the main thing in bubble tea that most individuals will ask if it has a lot of sugar. I mean those shiny black pearls can’t be glistening for no reason right? However, just because they look sweet, doesn’t mean that they actually will be.
Tapioca pearls actually initially contain the least amount of sugar per 1/3 cup than any other boba type. This would make them one of the healthiest boba toppings in terms of low sugar to put into bubble tea, if it wasn’t for all the sweetening done to them after/during cooking them.
When tapioca pearls are initially made, most of the time they are made without sugar.
This is why people are often surprised when they taste them for the first time after making them from scratch at home, and they are pretty bland.
Now this doesn’t mean that tapioca pearls can’t have sugar them, since many individuals who actually make their tapioca pearls from scratch can mix it with sugar during the process. They can come with a lot of sugar, depending on the person’s preference, or no sugar at all.
Majority of the time companies selling tapioca pearls will not include sugar in them, except some caramel to enhance its color (this is a very small portion). The choice to sweeten the boba pearls after or during the cooking is left to the one cooking and preparing the tapioca pearls. This means that if there is alot of sugar in the tapioca pearls, it isn’t usually the company that made them who did it.
If the tapioca pearls are coming from a boba shop, and they are sweet on their own separately when chewing them out of the bubble tea drink itself, then they do contain a lot of sugar. They are not really “full” of sugar per say, but they are coated and soaked in it. Sometimes tapioca pearls are cooked in boiling sugar water to help them sweeten up. Believe me, it takes a lot of sugar to actually sweeten tapioca pearls. They are pretty stubborn. The sugar doesn’t soak into the tapioca pearls that easily.
For the amount of sugar needed to sweeten tapioca pearls to a good amount for most individuals when they taste them, it takes atleast a fourth of the amount of sugar to the amount of tapioca pearls to get them to no longer taste bland. They are soaked in this amount of sugar for 10 minutes or more.
About a third of a cup of boba pearls is what is used in a regular sized bubble tea drink of 16 ounces in size.
This means that it will take atleast a tablespoon and a half of sugar to sweeten a third of a cup of boba pearls, once they are mixed and soaked with sugar after cooking. That is 18.5 grams of sugar.
However, since tapioca pearls have a difficult time absorbing the sugar, they have to be soaked in it for an extended time to sweeten them. When they are taken out of this sugar mixture, not all of that sugar is going to make it into tapioca pearls and then into the cup. Only a very small fraction of that sugar does. Unless, the whole thing is scooped up and poured into the bubble tea cup altogether (which isn’t usual practice).
Some of the sugar mixture will coat the outside of the tapioca pearls, but will come off after they are placed in the drink.
How much sugar is in a bubble tea drink?
In a regular bubble tea drink of 16 ounces, you can expect about 41 grams of sugar if 3 tablespoons of sugar has been added to it, including tapioca pearls that have been sweetened (soaked in sugars) after they have been cooked from a boba shop.
If the tapioca pearls have not been sweetened, then it would be 36 grams of sugar. If 2 tablespoons have been added instead of 3, then it would be 24 grams of sugar. If only 1 tablespoon of sugar has been added to the bubble tea drink, then it would be only 12.5 grams of sugar.
The 3 tablespoons for a 16 ounce drink or more is probably what an individual is getting if they order from most boba shops. A boba shop’s main concern is making good drinks that will make their customer’s return.
If an individual is making their own boba drinks at home, then off of instinct without knowing they are doing it, they will most likely make a bubble tea drink with less sugar and less than sweet tapioca pearls. How this is known is because, many individuals always ask how to make their drinks taste like the boba shops after they make their own drinks to replicate it at home.
So how many grams of sugar is this according to the recommended daily amount stated by the USDA?
Since an average 16 ounce bubble tea will have somewhere between 24 to 36 grams of sugar, then that means that drinking one sweet bubble tea for the day will put an individual at 48% to 82%, of the recommended daily amount stated by the USDA.
This is also dependent on how many calories an individual should be consuming per day, which is determined by other factors like height for example. This is based off of the 2,000 calories a day average, which should have around 10% or less total calories being sugars. The recommended daily amount is around 50 grams of sugar for a 2,000 calorie diet.
If the diet is only 1,500 calories a day for example, then this would be about 38 grams of sugar.
The good news is that majority of individuals can get away with drinking a normal boba drink (or even two if they lower the sugars) a day without going over the daily sugar limit if they are watching their diet. This is even counting ordering a regular sized bubble tea from a local boba shop which would be on the high end of the 82% for daily sugar intake.