Bubble tea, also known as boba and Zhen chu nai cha in Mandarin, has been in existence for a long time but has exploded in popularity in the United Kingdom in the twenty-first century. Is bubble tea, boba – or, if you prefer, pearl milk tea — vegan-friendly?
We’ll get into more depth on what bubble tea is later in this article, but for now, let’s get right to the point!
Some, but not all, are vegan-friendly.
Bubble tea is a generic term for a variety of beverages, although in general, bubble tea is either a fruity or milky beverage (some people refer to it as pearl milk tea).
It should come as no surprise that milk-based bubble tea is generally not acceptable for vegans (unless plant-based milk is used, of course!). To make matters better, fruity beverages are nearly usually vegan-friendly.
It can’t be said that Boba is often vegan, but not always. Milk-based bubble tea is not vegan.
The Reasons Why Bubble Tea Isn’t Vegan
There are certain ingredients in bubble tea that would make it inappropriate for vegans, the most notable of which being milk.
The most obvious reason why your bubble tea could not be vegan is that it may include milk, as previously stated. For a long time, finding a bubble tea prepared with non-dairy milk was nearly impossible, but happily, that is changing.
While conventional bubble tea is often made with dairy cream, cow’s milk, (dairy) milk powder, or airy condensed milk, vegan-friendly milk alternatives such as almond, soy, coconut, oat, and others are increasingly being used.
While milk is the most common ingredient in non-vegan bubble teas, it is also the most straightforward to eliminate. If you choose a fruit-based drink, you’ll probably be alright (although it’s always worth double-checking), but any milky choice will almost certainly be produced with animal milk.
Bubble teas are generally prepared to order, so simply inquire whether it can be made with vegan-friendly milk; if not, you should be able to locate a vegan fruit tea rather quickly.
Some bubble teas are quite sweet, and aside from the nutritional aspect (they can also be extremely high in caffeine), there may be issues regarding the sweetening agent employed.
The most likely ingredient is sugar, and while there are some worries about bone char, many vegans would not be concerned. If you are, determining the sugar’s vegan credentials will be difficult, but asking the shop or choosing a certified vegan bubble tea will be your best alternatives.
- Honey & Syrups
Although honey is not vegan, certain bubble teas may be sweetened with it. If this is the case, it will typically be stated as an ingredient. Once again, and as always, if you are in doubt, double-check.
Syrups are a popular addition to this drink since they provide flavor, color, fragrance, and, of course, sweetness. Sugar is usually always the core ingredient in such syrups; thus, you’re confronted with the near-impossible chore of determining whether or not such sugar is vegan-friendly once more.
- Artificial Sweeteners
As we know, all artificial sweeteners are vegan in terms of ingredients (many are derived from plants), but most, if not all, have been tested on animals at some point during their development.
It’s up to you if this makes them non-vegan, as it is with many aspects of veganism. However, because many artificial sweeteners have been related to a variety of health problems, at least anecdotally, if not entirely scientifically, avoiding them is usually the best choice, whether you are vegan or not.
CONCLUSION: Bubble Tea, Boba Can Be Vegan
If you exclude dairy milk, your bubble tea will almost certainly be vegan. It is up to you whether you choose a one prepared with vegan-friendly milk or a fruit tea, but as long as you avoid apparent non-vegan additions like custard, you should be OK.
However, with new and strange varieties of this peculiar drink appearing all the time, it’s definitely better to double-check before you buy. While most boba toppings, especially traditional ones, are vegan, sweetening agents and colorings in them, as well as in the drink’s primary body, may not be.
So, while we would say that most bubble tea is plant-based, this is far from a certainty, and you should absolutely exercise caution unless you get your bubble tea from a dedicated vegan shop.