Bubble tea has become very popular in the US. If you haven’t tried it yourself, you’ve probably seen other people walking around holding a vivid, milky drink with spheres drifting about inside.
Bubble tea is a Taiwanese specialty that combines sweet tea with boba pearls. These soft and chewy balls are fun to slurp up in your straw, but their squishy texture may make you wonder, is boba vegan?
Fortunately, the pearls in your bubble tea aren’t made from gelatin, so they are suitable for vegans. However, vegans should still be wary when drinking bubble tea, as other ingredients may not be suitable for a plant-based diet.
We’ll cover which ingredients in boba tea are and aren’t vegan below, so that you can be clued up when you next place your order.
Is Boba Vegan?
Boba tea used three main ingredients. These are tea, milk or fruit juice, and boba pearls. Other ingredients, like syrups, foams, and jellies can be added to the tea to give it an interesting texture and appearance.
Tapioca pearls give boba tea its characteristic look, taste, and feel. As they are so chewy, some might believe that they are made with gelatin, but this isn’t the case!
Boba pearls are made from tapioca, a substance taken from the root of the cassava plant. The pearls are made by grinding the root to take the starchy liquid out of it. The root is then left to dry into a powder, used to make flakes that turn into squishy tapioca pearls.
Tapioca pearls also tend to contain water, tapioca flour, and sugar to give them a sweet taste. However, while most of the ingredients in the pearls are vegan, a few manufacturers do use honey to sweeten the spheres, which would make them unsuitable for a plant-based diet.
Some other tapioca balls also have coloring added to them, which may be natural or artificial. Food coloring is usually suitable for vegans, but some red colorings can be taken from red beetles.
If you do want to eat boba pearls, always check the label to make sure that they are vegan. If you’re unsure, ask your bubble tea shop about their ingredients.
This is a classic boba tea topping that resembles a custard-like dessert. The pudding usually contains eggs, making it unsuitable for a vegan diet.
Many bubble tea shops use different boba ingredients, including a range of jellies. While many jellies are made with gelatin, a lot of the jellies used in bubble tea are made with plant-based substances. These include rainbow jelly, grass, jelly, and lychee jelly.
However, some jellies may be sweetened with honey instead of sugar, so always double-check before you place your order.
Fruit juice and milk are often added to the tea and boba pearls in bubble tea. Fruit juice is always vegan, but milk is a different story.
It seems obvious, but vegans will have to forgo cow’s milk. Classic bubble tea is made with cow’s milk, but a lot of modern shops offer non-dairy milk options, like almond, oat, rice, or coconut milk.
To make your bubble tea vegan, ask your bubble tea shop about their non-dairy milk, or opt for a fruit juice base instead.
Syrups And Honey
Some shops add syrups and honey to their tea. Vegans will have to avoid honey-sweetened beverages, but they won’t have to do the same for tapioca syrup.
Tapioca syrup is usually made with sugar and plant-based substances, but this may vary between brands. Always ask your shop for their list of ingredients to be sure.
There is a constant debate over whether sugar is suitable for vegans or not. White sugar may be sourced from sugar cane, but several sugar manufacturers use bone char to filter the product, making it look whiter as a result.
Some choose to remove the bone char from their sugars, but if they have used the product to manufacture the sugar, this would technically make the sugar non-vegan.
Many vegans still choose to consume white sugar as it is impossible to avoid it completely. Fortunately, several sugar producers don’t use bone char in their products anymore. You can also find organic sugar brands that are certified vegan.
If you are a vegan who avoids white sugar, it is hard to find bubble tea that is made without it. Whether you drink bubble tea or not will depend on how strict a vegan you are.
Bubble tea can be made with many non-vegan ingredients, but there are many vegan-friendly bubble tea options that you can try!
However, if you are a vegan who doesn’t eat white sugar, you may want to forgo bubble tea, as it is incredibly difficult to find sugar-free bubble tea beverages.