Cancers, Disorders and Conditions

Does Bubble Tea cause Cancer?

As a college student, intern, or someone with a hectic schedule, we look for ways to reduce and manage our anxiety in...

Written by Isabella Roselini · 3 min read >
Bubble Tea

As a college student, intern, or someone with a hectic schedule, we look for ways to reduce and manage our anxiety in a better way. One of the easiest and the most satisfying ways of doing so is indulging in a guilty pleasure once in a while. These guilty pleasures can be anything from donuts, cheesecake, ice lollies, or Bubble Tea- basically anything flavourful, preferably loaded with sugar.

While coffee is the most popular tool that energizes people and gets them through their day, there are various delicious substitutes for those of us that like to sip-n-work. Bubble tea has gained popularity amongst the younger generation to facilitate late-night snacking while cramming for midterms.

Several bubble tea joints have opened up near campuses to cater to their younger audience. If you plan for an all-nighter in a group study, grabbing a bubble tea would probably be a satiating idea. Or maybe you asked your crush out and are looking for a place with a casual vibe with delectable food – a boba joint is your answer.

So, What is Boba?

Bubble tea, pearl tea, or tapioca tea is a drink made from milk tea and served with your choice of toppings and tapioca balls. The endearing term used to describe bubble tea and popular among people that relish this drink is boba.

Tapioca pearls, also known as boba, highlight bubble tea and lend their name to the popular drink with the same name. Tapioca pearls are made from cassava starch, a root vegetable, also known as yuca, originating from South America.

While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact city and shop where bubble tea originated, it traces its origins to Taiwan. Before the birth of bubble tea, people used boba pearls in shaved ice desserts paired with syrup and chewy rice balls. Another popular drink consumed at that time was milk tea. 

 Bubble Tea

If we go by hearsay, a Taiwanese team manager was bored and decided to dump his tapioca pudding in the iced milk tea he was supposed to consume separately. Upon mixing the two, he realized the resulting concoction was a delicious drink, and he immediately added it to his cafe’s menu.

Thanks to the genius who realized the combination of the two drinks might work and tada!! Our beloved boba came into existence. It didn’t take long for the delicious drink to be an integral part of our lives, with boba shops open until late, perfect for a late-night hangout or a laid-back drink during the scorching hot days.

Bubble tea uses black or green tea and various flavored syrup rich in sugar, such as peach, mango, strawberry, and lychee. Milk can be added to teas to lend a creamy texture making the drink rich. The classic bubble tea features black tea with milk and tapioca pearls.

Many places offer substitute milk with dairy-free milk such as almond and oats milk to make bubble tea vegan. You can opt for a sugar-free drink by asking for stevia in place of syrup and sugar-free flavoring. 

The Truth Behind Boba Causing Cancer

While it is unlikely that boba contains carcinogens that are substances that cause cancer, a German study has recently surfaced with its claim that tapioca pearls used in bubble tea may contain styrene and acetophenone.

Styrene is a chemical used in manufacturing, and acetophenone is a synthetic food flavoring compound approved by the FDA. However, the research conducted by the German scientists seems to have mistaken these compounds as carcinogenic compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls.

However, the research conducted was inconclusive due to the ambiguity of the source of the study and the amounts of the carcinogens that were claimed to be present in the tapioca balls. Since the survey was never peer-reviewed or published, it would be wise not to take the cancer-causing boba claim to heart.

There is no scientific proof that validates bubble tea’s cancer-causing claim. However, one sure thing is that boba consists of high amounts of sugar, which has been proven to cause diabetes, obesity, and other health problems when consumed in large quantities.

It is essential to curb your sugar intake if you have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes. People suffering from various cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases need to be observant of their sugar intake to prevent future health complications.

Several scientific studies have proven a link between high sugar consumption in sugary drinks to an increased risk of certain cancers such as breast, liver, prostate, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.

Parting Words

Consuming boba in moderation and introducing it to your diet plan as a guilty pleasure has no health risks.

Boba is high in sugar content and fat, which can be reduced by customizing your drink by opting for sugar-free flavoring, stevia, and substituting milk with dairy-free alternatives.

Alternatively, you can make bubble tea at home with black tea, milk, and tapioca balls. You can add fruit puree for added flavor and richness. When making the boba at home, don’t forget to grab wide-mouthed straw from the market. After, it’s the thrill of chewing tapioca pearls while sipping tea that makes boba so enticing. Happy sipping!

10 Replies to “Does Bubble Tea cause Cancer?”

  1. Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. A disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, made up of trillions of cells. Typically, human cells grow and multiply (through cell division) to form new cells as the body needs them. Cancer is one such illness everyone is scared of, and no one can say the exact reason for what causes cancer. There is almost every food item linked to causing cancer. One such study did not leave Bubble Tea. I am super happy after reading that my beloved Bubble Tea is safe. This is the best news ever!

  2. Bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk tea, or boba tea or boba) is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. It most commonly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls (“boba” or “pearls”), but it can be made with other toppings as well. Anyone who has tasted this magic through their tongue and consumed Bubble Tea is now addicted to its deliciousness; I was taken aback when I read this title. I immediately started reading this blog; I am really happy that it is not going to harm me apart from sugar intake.

  3. I never heard about Bubble Tea, but the word Cancer brought me here. I have lost so many family members because of it, and now I am mortified by the disease. I do not miss any article I come across related to this disease, and cancer only brought me here to read the blog. I am happy that I get to know about something so delicious that it will not cause me cancer at the end of this blog. After reading this blog, I want to try this Bubble Tea. It sounds delicious and mouthwatering. I will come back here to comment on whether I like Bubble Tea or not.

  4. Two years back, when I visited my friend in the city, we explored the town and enjoyed the food. It was my favorite trip so far; I tried Bubble Tea then. Everything was super special about that trip, and the cherry on the cake was the bubble tea. I tried that for the very first time, and I can not forget the taste till today; if you have not tried it yet, what are you waiting for? Go grab that cup and sip the delicious Bubble Tea, and now you know it is not going to cause cancer, so drink it tension-free.

  5. One afternoon you get bored, and you create something so flavourful that future generations will thank you forever. I am speaking on behalf of this generation, and we are thankful that you made Bubble Tea instead of discovering something boring like Gravity. Well, Hats Off to that guy who created this delicious gem out of his boredom in the middle of the day. He created magic indeed. Now, going to tell all my friends to let me experiment with food items; you never know someday someone somewhere in the universe will thank me in the comments as I do here.

  6. It may be TMI, but I really like my best friend, and I asked her out, but it was pretty confusing where we should go. We have always been roaming around and trying so many things, but we do not want to lose our comfort as friends. But we also want to spend time together, and I did not think that this blog would give me my first date idea. I never thought about it earlier, but it can be a hella good First Date Idea. You don’t be awkward as it is just a tea, and it is kinda cool too. Pun intended!

  7. I have been following a clean diet since 2014, and I have Sundays to make my soul happy with the delicious food without getting worried about calories. I am not kidding, but I have been consuming Bubble Tea every Sunday in the morning. This cafe near my house has toothsome bubble tea, and I love it from there. When this news came out that Bubble Tea might cause cancer, I lost it. I followed the study, but I am glad nothing supports this statement. I am reading till the end, and leaving a comment is proof that Bubble Tea is definitely my guilty pleasure. Hail Bubble Tea!

  8. Before I tried Lavender Boba Tea, I never knew Bubble Tea could be this flavourful. Let me share some more “you might not hear of” Blueberry, Coconut, Earl Grey, Hokkaido, Honeydew, Oolong, Taro Boba Tea all sound so different and weird but tastes amazing. But there are many more than just these. You might not hear them all, but if you are very interested in trying new flavors and taking risks with the food items you love, I will suggest you try each of them. I am not saying any of them is worse than the others, but I believe everyone has a different taste, and you might love the flavor I did not like at all, so why not try them all. Life is too short to stick to one flavor.

  9. There are so many fruit flavors available like blueberry, passion fruit, lychee, mango, strawberry, apple, kiwi, and I believe there must be many I have not even heard of them. I would love to try them all. I would love to try one with a vegan option available and probably try almond milk first. But I am here to say I tried Pineapple Bubble Tea with Dairy Milk, and it was very delicious. I love the texture, and the eclectic taste of sweet and tart was very interesting. That is why I believe Bubble tea will taste tempting with other fruits.

  10. When I first came to the city, everyone was crazy after Bubble Tea. Even when I joined college, those kids who always carried their drink in their hands kept drinking Bubble Tea. I had no idea what this craze was for. Also, not a person who tries new things quickly, but one day a friend dragged me into this joint of Bubble tea, and now I know the craze for Bubble Tea. Actually, I am a part of that craze. Maybe some students will think the same after looking at me and then joining our Bubble Tea Craze club one day.

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