It’s tough, but perhaps it’s time to start ordering bubble tea without those yummy pearls.
What is bubble tea without the stars of the show? Pearls – the lovely goodness that settles at the bottom of your favourite flavoured tea. They add dimension to a regular cup of tea with their chewy texture. The hint of sweetness in them is just right to not mask the essence of the tea. Bubble tea simply is not quite as complete without pearls.
Bubble tea remains wildly popular among Singaporeans despite controversies behind pearls. In 2013, many bubble tea stalls pulled pearls from their beverages after the recall of 11 starch-based Taiwanese products. The products were found to contain maleic acid, which can cause kidney damage if consumed in high amounts.
While claims on pearls being carcinogenic have been refuted, here is why you still should not binge on this calorie-dense food.
Bubble tea pearls are made from tapioca, a starch extracted from cassava root. Originating from South America, cassava is the third largest carbohydrate food source, behind rice and maize. A staple in many parts of the world, cassava contains more carbohydrates than potatoes.
What is in the pearls?
The pearls that many of us enjoy are essentially carbohydrates with no minerals or vitamins. According to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB), the quarter cup of pearls (or more) served in a cup of bubble tea adds up to more than 100 calories. To break that down, since a cup of milk tea with pearls is around 334 calories, pearls make up for a third of the calories. Depending on how much sugar the pearls are boiled and saturated with, these numbers could be higher than we think.
With the addition of pearls to a cup of tea that is already loaded with sugar and artificial sweetener, the calorie count of your drink easily adds up to over 300 calories – more than a can of coke or even a bowl of rice.
Unfortunately, pearls have little to no nutritional value. Simply put, pearls are empty calories. It is better to order bubble tea without the pearls or to try healthier alternatives like the latest all-natural bubble tea, Bobii Frutii.