Bubble Tea Pearls As A Carcinogen and How To Combat It

Now, those who read this blog know about my love for bubble tea.   Whether it be in a smoothie or iced tea, the taste of tea intermittent by the sudden gulp of tapioca balls is a nice surprise in a drink.

Cute Cups of Tea!

Cute Cups of Tea!

So, imagine my surprise when I saw news articles on how the bubbles in bubble tea are carcinogens!   Apparently, a German-certified government lab tested some tapioca balls coming out of an unnamed German bubble tea factory and found that the tea contains PCBs, a material that was once used in coolant fluids but, due to toxicity, was banned from the US in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001.   On top of that, this organization argues, the balls pose a choking hazard.

Now, bubble tea’s history is no clearer than that of regular tea.   The exact origins are unclear but it is believes that bubble tea was started in the 1980s, possibly by a Taiwanese tea shop owner Liu Han Chieh who wanted to start a new creation.   Eventually, a Japanese TV show happened upon the intriguing drink and showcased it, releasing the beverage to the world.   Since its inception, there have not been any reported accidents of bubble-tea related accidents.   If there have not been any accidents in 30 years, I would argue that bubble tea’s drink-ability is fine.

Obviously, not being a scientist, I cannot argue with the PCBs.   However, as a tea fanatic, I have searched around and found a quick recipe online for making your own tapioca pearls.   The process is not difficult at all, is very forgiving and can prove to be a fun activity to do with the kids:

For this activity, you will need:

Tapioca starch

– Food coloring (if you want to have a bit of fun with it.)


– Put your tapioca starch in a bowl (no measurement, as that will vary depending on how many balls you want to make) and slowly add boiling water.   Make sure your water is boiling, or this will not work.

– For a bit of fun, add in your food coloring.

– This is the part that you can have fun with.   Knead the starch until it has the same consistency of play-doh.

– Roll your play-doh dough into bite-size pearls on a wet towel.   Make sure they’re not too big!   If your dough starts drying, then just add a little bit of water.   If it gets gooey, throw in some more starch.

– Let the tapioca balls dry.    This will vary depending upon preference, but overnight should be perfect.

– In order to make the drink, throw your pearls into some boiling water and wait for them to rise.

– Depending on preference, you can leave them in for a few more minutes (since once they rise, they are only half-way cooked) or you can let them soak for longer.   Personally, I like mine a little chewy, so the shorter amount of time, the better.   Otherwise, they turn gooey and make me feel like I am drinking fish eyes.

– Drain your pearls and quickly put them on ice.

– Throw in your tea and enjoy!

While I must say, I do not think that this tea is a carcinogen nor do I think it poses a choking hazard, having a recipe on hand is fun and handy, allowing there to be no question what you are putting into your body.   Since you can roll the pearls to whatever size you would like, you can also avoid a choking hazard.   Have fun, make a night of making delicious tapioca balls and then spend the next day reaping the rewards by sipping on a nice, cool cup of bubble tea.

Homemade: Thai Bubble Tea

I always love reading Le Zoe Musings’ blog.   Her writing style is unique and informal, like talking to an old friend, and her photos are amazing, to say the least!   If I remember correctly (and please Kellie, correct me if I’m wrong), she has not had formal photography training.   Looking at what she does, I think she’s fibbing 🙂

Like me, Kellie is a huge tea fan, posting pictures of her chai matcha green tea that she makes, as well as her latest, Homemade: Thai Bubble Tea.   Take a look, learn how to make it yourself and indulge.

Drink Ban And Tea?

Those around the New York tri-state area have heard numerous times about the sugary drink ban being placed into effect by Mayor Bloomberg.   A huge debate complete with PSAs denouncing the other side, ads showing up in prominent areas and news stories are taking up the media.   One side argues that by banning large sugary drinks, the mayor is actually robbing the citizens of their freedom to choose and treating them as infants.   The other side points to the fact that obesity is a growing concern in America with 2/3 of Americans being considered clinically obese.


One of the PSAs Against Sugary Drinks

One of the PSAs Against Sugary Drinks

But the reason why I mention this ban here?   A drink that is growing in popularity, bubble tea, could be thrown out with all the sodas.

Bubble tea is a drink that is found in Taiwanese culture and has quickly spread to other nations as a delightful beverage.   The drink typically contains tea, milk and “bubbles,” or tapioca balls, at the bottom.   The person imbibing the beverage gets an enlarged straw so that when they drink their tea (sometimes as a tea, sometimes as a smoothie), they can also get gulps of the tapioca balls at the bottom (on the Tea Love Facebook page, you can see pictures of this drink from one of my favorite tea places, The Tea Spot in downtown Cranford, NJ).

However, this absolutely delicious beverage does come at a cost to the waist line – a 16 oz. cup can total as much as 232 calories (as a point of reference, that’s just shy of McDonald’s 250-calorie hamburger).   Due to the high calorie-count for a drink mixed with America’s rising obesity problem, bubble tea is coming under more scrutiny.

Restaurants that offer the drink to their customers can be fined up to $200 if they do not serve a variation that has at least 50% milk.   Some businesses cater exclusively to those who drink bubble tea, serving up different sizes and different varieties.   With the ban that is being discussed, these businesses would risk losing merchandise that might be pre-purchased, losing customers that might not like their new drink that much or even face dissatisfied customers who just want something larger than a 16-oz. bubble tea so that they could indulge a little.

If you have yet to try bubble tea, I highly recommend giving it at least a shot, even if you are on a diet.   Let it be your guilty pleasure for a night and find out whether or not you like how this drink ban will affect your choice.   Think you should be restricted to 16 oz?

Green Tea Bobas { Homemade }

I love Le Zoe Musings’ posts and photos but this one, I think I adore!

Boba tea (popularly known as bubble tea is delightfully tasty, gives you a bit of a pleasant surprise when you slurp up a tapioca ball (found at your local Asian food market) and is chock full of health benefits if you make it using matcha like Le Zoe Musings recommends.

Matcha green tea uses the entire tea leaf.   It is ground into a fine powder and is used for Japanese tea ceremonies.   It is also believed to have that many more health benefits since you do use the whole leaf.

Read more about Le Zoe Musings’ great blog here:

Green Tea Bobas { Homemade }