Bubble tea is the drink of the moment. Shame it can have more calories than a Big Mac! 

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  • Millions of young bubble tea ‘influencers’ follow on platforms like TikTok
  • The drink consists of black or green tea, milk, ice and tapioca flour balls.
  • Sheila Dillon examines the trend as the UK now has 250 shops selling bubble tea

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First came Dirty Bars, which sold vat-like cups of sugary, sly-colored crushed ice that would freeze to your gullet and stain your kids’ teeth.

Then came juice and smoothie bars for ‘clean eaters’ and vegans, offering a mix of fake-looking fruits and vegetables, branding themselves as ‘healthy’ but often with hidden calories. Were filled.

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And then, from the east, came bubble tea.

Without beginning, this drink consists of the most basic form of black or green tea, milk, ice and small chewy balls of tapioca dough – shaken like a cocktail and served with a wide straw to keep those fat and shiny. Suck the tapioca pearls from the bottom of the cup.

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Sheila Dillon investigates whether bubble tea can be considered healthy as the beverage grows in popularity with around 250 shops selling bubble tea in the UK (file image)

Started in Taiwan in the 1980s, bubble tea ‘cafes’ and bars have offered a variety of creations in British high streets and shopping centers since the early 2010s and became a fashionable hang-out spot for teenagers Huh.

But recently they have been experiencing a stratospheric evolution – growing at an extraordinary rate, and thanks to a surge in popularity on social media platforms such as TikTok, where the drink has become a new viral trend.

Millions of young people – mostly under 25 – now follow Bubble Tea ‘influencers’ as they ‘taste-test’ different concoctions on camera, even creating their own in every taste and color. make.

It is becoming a cultural phenomenon, with videos with the ‘bubble tea’ hashtag currently garnering nearly three billion views on TikTok alone.

It’s all weirdly voyeur. People post videos of drinks being foiled or plastic lids on straws (for a satisfying ‘pop’), before patting beads, or ‘boba’, as they are known. (Actually the Chinese slang for ‘breasts’, referring to their shape.)

So, then – a little fun? And what’s safer for our teens than cider or vodka in the back of the bike shed?

Well, maybe not. While green and black teas are renowned for their detoxification benefits, these ‘teas’ are far from healthy.

Only this week, it was revealed that some bubble teas, filled with various fruit syrups and with endless different topping options like jelly, whipped cream, and ice cream, can have as many as 800 calories.

Last week it was reported that childhood obesity in England is at an all-time high – a shocking 2.5 million children are now overweight or obese (file image)

Last week it was reported that childhood obesity in England is at an all-time high – a shocking 2.5 million children are now overweight or obese (file image)

This is the same as 50 sugar cubes and even outshines a McDonald’s Big Mac at 550 calories.

Today there are around 250 shops selling bubble tea in the UK, and the main market is teenage girls, who are lured by the hot branding (to match the eye-wateringly sweet drink) and who are ‘getting social media’ for it. Likes ‘likes’.

Bubbleology is the largest UK chain, with 40 stores across Europe, including 17 in the UK. Thanks to this ‘bubble boom’ 70 more are set to open before the end of the year.

And all this when it was reported last week that childhood obesity in England was at an all-time high – a shocking 2.5 million children are now overweight or obese – partly increased recently during the prolonged lockdown due to immobility.

And 56 percent of Britain’s diet now consists of ‘ultra-processed’ foods.

And yet millions of young people are now addicted to the so-called ‘meal-in-a-tea’ drink.

So, in the spirit of my job as presenter of the BBC’s The Food Program, and in the spirit of keeping up with the latest culinary trends, I visit my local branch of Bubology in north London this week to learn more about these beverages. which both excite and, perhaps, endanger our youth equally.

Sheila visited her local branch of Bubbleology in north London, where she learned the lowest calorie option at 200 calories (file image)

Sheila visited her local branch of Bubbleology in north London, where she learned the lowest calorie option at 200 calories (file image)

I chose my size (a ‘regular’ 500ml at £3.59 or a ‘supreme’ one at £4.59), my taste, then specified how sweet and milky I wanted it.

And then came the performance. ‘Boba Barista’ scoops up tapioca balls, pours creamy tea on top, then ice, then toppings.

I confess, I wasn’t too keen on the taste at all. I remember Tapioca Milk Pud – or Fish Eyes – as my friends and I called it very well from my school days.

But this is a completely different field. And I understood the appeal immediately.

First I ordered a pomegranate fruit tea, the lowest calorie option and yet still have 200 calories (milk tea starts at 350 calories) and an additional 94 calories with boba.

It had a pungent taste of pomegranate. And while sucking the balls of pomegranate-impregnated tapioca into my mouth was quite peculiar, I can report that they are soft, slightly chewy – and really good! Definitely a long way from fish-eye pudding.

Excited, I moved on to other flavors: next passion fruit, then honeydew and vanilla tea.

In the name of research, of course, I also sampled the mango and lychee boba on top: the possibilities were endless.

My boba barista tells me I can have strawberries and cream, Oreos or even banana pie.

Shelia said you could easily find yourself swallowing a pile of sugar in an instant - far more than the 30 grams the government says adults should limit themselves to a day (file image)

Shelia said you could easily find yourself swallowing a pile of sugar in an instant – far more than the 30 grams the government says adults should limit themselves to a day (file image)

And it doesn’t stop here: There are popping varieties—with seaweed-shell balls that explode like popping candy in your mouth, a wild creation of which Willy Wonka would be proud, though perhaps one that easily turns into a milk-spraying disaster. may end.

Even a…

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