TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Honest Food Talks on March 16 posted an infographic on its website comparing the calorie count of various flavors of Taiwan's famous bubble tea.
The infographic, which compared the calorie count of 18 flavors, went viral, surfacing on the social media site Reddit on March 21 and quickly gaining 380 upvotes. The website's editor told Taiwan News the information to generate the infographic was compiled from multiple sources, including Help Thy Wellness and Feibei Nutrition, which are nutritionists based in Hong Kong and Taiwan, respectively.
The calories are based on a standard 700 milliliter (24 ounce) cup serving with the assumption that the drinks are served with the full amount of sugar. The amounts of sugar, milk, and toppings are based on the average seen in Taiwan's boba shops.
A basic cup of bubble tea is composed of black tea from bags or loose leaves heated in hot water, mixed with a milk or creamer base, and topped off with tapioca pearls. According to Honest Food Talks, the average large cup of bubble milk tea has 700 kilocalories (kcal) and 60 grams of sugar.
Given that the average adult male requires 2,500 kcal per day and adult female 2,000 kcal, a cup of bubble tea already accounts for nearly one-third of the ideal daily calorie intake. Therefore, from a nutritionist's point of view, such beverages should be considered a "meal replacement" rather than an "after-meal treat."
The foodie website found that brown sugar, at 620 kcal, had slightly fewer calories than white sugar's 700 kcal, and fruit was even lower at 300 kcal. It said the main factor causing fruity drinks to have fewer calories is the lower amount of milk and creamer used.
Taro milk tea was found to have more calories at 490 kcal. The article also noted that calorie counts vary between chains, with Chattime's standard bubble tea drink registering at 550 kcal and Coco's at 654 kcal.
Next, the site looked at which ingredients added to drinks have the most and fewest calories. As a base of comparison, a standard serving of 15 grams of tapioca pearls has 280 kcal.
The item with the fewest calories was grass jelly at 30 kcal, while the highest was Tapioca Pearls. Taro balls had the second-most calories at 250 kcal, while coconut jelly and aloe tied for the second-least fattening at 100 kcal.
As for the pearls themselves, white boba consists of cassava root, while brown pearls get their color from brown sugar, which increases the number of calories. In addition, so-called "popping" tapioca pearls have "sweetened fruity gels" made from sugar syrup that increase the calorie count.