Is Boba Tea Vegan?

Blue Bubble Tea

March 28, 2022

The term “boba” is derived from Taiwanese slang for “pearls,” which refers to the chewy tapioca pearls that settle at the bottom of the drink. Taiwan is the uncontested boba capital of the world. The noon caffeine fix is a boba break rather than drinking coffee. The invigorating cups of sweet, creamy, chewy pleasure — also known as “bubble tea” and “pearl milk tea” — have become a go-to beverage in Taiwan and throughout Asia, North America, and Europe during the last several decades.

Originally, boba pearls were combined with syrups, beans, and delectably chewy rice balls in shaved ice sweets. The milk tea was also popular, and luckily, someone thought to combine the two, resulting in the brilliant, cherished drink we have today.

Bubble Tea Ingredients

Is Boba tea vegan? Well, It all depends on the sort of tea you buy. Milk bubble tea is not vegan because it is made with dairy milk. So, it depends on what you put in your Boba tea since it may also be made with fruit teas, which are vegan-friendly. The main items of Boba tea are:

  • Tea: The brewed tea options are usually green tea, black tea, or red tea.
  • Fruit juice or milk: Milk may be dairy or non-dairy, or fruit juice instead.
  • Boba pearls: There are countless types of tapioca pearls, vegan jellies, syrups, and foams.

Ingredient: Tapioca Pearls

Because their textures are so similar, it’s popular to suggest that Boba includes gelatin. Gelatin is a no-go for vegans since it contains animal bone, skin, and ligaments. Tapioca, thankfully, is composed entirely of plants. Tapioca starch, a product of the South American cassava plant, is used to make pearls.

The cassava root is taken out from the ground, and then the starch-based liquid is squeezed out, and the residue is dried into tapioca powder. Then they make tapioca pearls, pearls, flakes, or sticks that rehydrate into jelly. To sweeten, most pearls are made with tapioca flour, water, and sugar. Though the tapioca pearls’ foundation is vegan, some manufacturers sweeten the pearls with honey, a substance manufactured by honeybees.

Coloring, both natural and artificial, is another prevalent component in tapioca balls. Food coloring is generally vegan-friendly. However, vivid red food coloring may be derived from red beetles, rendering the bubble tea non-vegan.

Ingredient: Popping Boba

Popping Boba produced with agar agar, a seaweed-based component, may be included in your bubble tea. The algae combine with a base liquid, such as fruit juice, and form small spheres that resemble fish eggs. Unless it’s sweetened with honey, popping Boba is entirely vegan.

Ingredient: Tea

Freshly brewed tea made from real loose leaves is totally vegan. When making tea with loose leaves, it’s safe to state that the sole product utilized is one derived from plants. Consequently, most teas are naturally friendly, as you might expect, and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans of all kinds.

Ingredient: Toppings

A pudding-like custard is a more typical bubble tea topping. Though delicious, vegans should avoid this ingredient because it nearly usually includes eggs.

Some bubble teas use boba components other than tapioca balls; fortunately, most of these are vegan. Lychee jelly, grass jelly, rainbow jelly, and nearly all other jellies are safe to eat because they are produced with sugar and other plant-based components. Check that the jellies include sugar rather than honey.

Ingredient: Syrups

Just as a honey replacement may be added to tapioca pearls, this non-vegan honey sweetener can be used to milk/fruit base or tea. Many people add tapioca syrup to their drink base to enhance color, sweetness, and fragrance. These syrups typically contain sugar as their basis, as well as other plant-based components — to be safe, get an ingredients list when ordering Boba tea to make sure it’s vegan.

Ingredient: Sugar

When it comes to veganism, white sugar tends to open a whole bag of worms. Some vegans take white sugar, while others shun it entirely. White sugar is made from the sugar cane plant, but there is a catch for many vegans: animal bone char is used to bleach and filter the sugar throughout production. Although the bone char is removed from the final product, producers employ an animal product throughout the process, making it un-vegan to some.

The good news is that many, if not most, current manufacturers have stopped utilizing bone char in their processing, and the technique will most likely be phased out entirely one day. Avoiding white sugar is very hard in today’s diet. Therefore many vegans feel it unrealistic to eliminate it.

If you avoid white sugar, you’ll have a tough, if not impossible, time locating bubble tea that doesn’t include it.

Ingredient: Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are occasionally used to sweeten vegan bubble tea. While this eliminates the white sugar/honey issue, it introduces a new one: most artificial sweeteners are tested on animals, which is unacceptable to most vegans. They’re also bad for your health, so it’s better to avoid artificial sweeteners entirely!

Ingredient: Milk

The most common reason your bubble tea may not be vegan is, as previously stated, that it may include milk since milky forms of bubble tea are typically not vegan. Unfortunately, the milk used in Boba tea is generally cow’s milk by default, and animals on dairy farms have a short life filled with suffering and cruelty.

However, the good news is that you may enjoy bubble tea without contributing to any of this cruelty because many contemporary tea businesses utilize, or at least offer, a variety of vegan milk tea choices made with soy, almond, coconut, oat, or rice milk instead. Bubble tea is everywhere these days, so finding a vegan version should be easy!

How to get Vegan Boba Tea

Ask for 100% vegan ingredients if possible; most stores will accommodate you and provide you with numerous alternatives. Otherwise, here are a few things to consider while buying bubble tea:

  • As toppings, get tapioca balls or agar jelly (or inquire whether their “fruit jelly” or “grass jelly” is vegan).
  • When feasible, choose fruit bubble teas that do not contain milk or cream.
  • If you prefer a bubble tea with milk or cream, request non-dairy milk or cream.
  • Unless you’re sure it’s not white sugar, avoid adding sugar.
  • It’s not difficult to enjoy bubble tea as a vegan if you do these four things.

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