A magnifying glass pointed towards a cup of boba, revealing the amount of sugar it contains. Illustration by Ayanna Villanueva.

Picture this: it’s summertime and buckets of sweat glisten on your face as the blazing sun’s heat peeks through your windows and dries up your throat. What better way to conclude a long, humid and exhausting day than with a refreshing and delicious cup of boba? Bubble tea, colloquially known as boba, is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan and has since gained worldwide popularity. Boba is perfect for any occasion, mood and even weather. I can assure you that no one stops drinking boba after the summer. It is an “every season” drink.

However, sorry to burst your bubble about bubble tea (aha! see what I did there!), but just like any other thing in the world, it also has its pros and cons. 

Let’s start with the negatives. 

Not Health(tea) At All

The drink might sound healthy since it’s a “tea-based” drink, but it’s TOTALLY not. According to USDA (U.S Department of Agriculture), an average 8 ounce boba contains 120 calories. If you are at risk of diabetes, I recommend that you avoid this drink or limit how often you drink it because the sugar content is too high. According to research done by Temasek Polytechnic, a post-secondary institution in Singapore, a brown sugar boba consists of 18.5 teaspoons of sugar or 92.5g per 500 mL of bubble tea, while a regular bubble tea contains of 20.5 teaspoons or 102.5g of sugar per 500 mL. 

Plastic Packaging

Boba’s contribution to plastic pollution and its negative environmental impacts are striking. Since boba businesses are currently booming, consider all of the drinks they sell each day and the amount of plastic cups, lids and straws they use. Recycling plastics doesn’t guarantee that it could be reusable if the plastics are contaminated or placed in the wrong bin, so most of them will probably end up in landfills, which would take decades to decompose or eventually clutter out to oceans. In order to defeat the prolonged battle against plastics, boba shops should opt for more sustainable packaging.

$6-7 For A Drink?!

As the boba market grew, business-owners took this demand as an advantage to raise the price, knowing that young people could care less about the price as long as it’s something they enjoy. Usually, bobas cost about 5-6 dollars; however, in some boba places, they charge an extra dollar for tapioca toppings, which is half a dollar higher than the standard rate. 

Those are the only cons that I could think of, so on the flip side, here are the positives.

Energy Source

With all its excessive sugar contents, boba is perfect to pump your energy and heart rate up. Some boba drinks also contain caffeine depending on the teas that shops use. This is a coffee alternative for coffee haters since it will give you the same energy and “staying awake” effects. Personally, a cup gives me a sugar rush, so expect me to blabber all day if I drink it. 

Serotonin Trigger

The surge of bubble tea success could be rooted in its stress relieving and antidepressant properties. The delightful memories you make with your friends while hanging out at the boba shop and talking about all the drama in your life and how you made 0.001 second eye contact with your crush is worth reliving and reminiscing. Its sweetness paired with the chewy tapioca pearls are the perfect serotonin trigger. 

Asian Identity 

Boba isn’t just a drink to Asian American youths; it’s an identity that unites Asians and is some people’s only tie to their culture. It’s also a way to connect with other Asian kids and could be a stepping stone to reconnect with their culture for those who lost touch with their roots. For some of us, it’s an addiction our parents could approve of.

This Taiwanese drink that is popularized by the mainstream media has changed the West’s perceptions on beverages forever. I don’t think there’s any dessert or drink that could compare with boba. If you want to join the “boba craze,” there’s an article from the previous years that went in pursuit of the best boba in South East Portland. However, that list is most likely to be outdated. In my two years of poking around here in Portland, the best boba places in terms of uniqueness, how good their basic menu is and their impeccable and quality snacks, in my opinion, are Royaltea, T4, MonsterTea and Ding Tea.

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