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Bubble tea is known by several other interesting names – Boba milk tea, tapioca pearl tea, BBT and QQ. It was invented in Taiwan 20 years ago as a treat for children. The flavoured, milk-based drink comes in pastel colours and is popular with teenagers everywhere.
The black ‘bubbles’ in this drink are the real novelty; made from tapioca (Urdu: sagodana) pearls, these marble-sized balls are soft and chewy.
An extra wide straw helps eat these gummy beads.Like all things yummy, too much bubble tea is not good for the health for several reasons. A mix of tea, milk, sugar, and giant black tapioca balls, bubble tea is calorific. There is a considerable amount of fat content because most commercial bubble teas are prepared with full fat milk. Although it has less sugar than most soft drinks, bubble tea is nevertheless very sugary; flavour syrups added to the drink raise the sugar content even higher.
The real calories in the tea come from the tapioca pearls, without which the drink loses its novelty. Tapioca is pure starch and contains large amounts of carbohydrates and sugars. One cup of tapioca pearls has approximately 500 calories and every serving of bubble tea contains at least a quarter-cup of these pearls.
Although tapioca is considered a nutritious food that is often recommended by doctors to be included in babies’ and toddlers’ meal plans, the tapioca beads used in these bubble teas have been subjected to some scrutiny by public health organisations in Europe. Research in Germany has shown that these pearls may have traces of substances that are harmful to health.
Additionally, tapioca beads are considered a choking hazard for children less than four years of age, as sucking them through a straw can accidentally lead to one entering the lungs.
– Beenish Israr
The writer is a PhD scholar, studying Human Nutrition at University of Reading, UK. She is also a lecturer of Food and Nutrition at University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.
First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 26, 2013.