You have permission to edit this article.

Bursting the bubble around boba

  • Updated
  • Comments
  • 1 min to read

According to, an 8-ounce serving of boba milk tea contains 158 calories, 18 grams of sugar and 5.3 grams of fat. 

Regardless of what you call them, boba drinks, milk tea and bubble drinks have taken over Hawai‘i. They have evolved from a simple, cheap and refreshing drink sold by tiny vendors in Chinatown to one of the trendiest drinks in the islands.

These drinks have had a place in my heart and belly for a decade and a half. The owner of my favorite smoothie and boba store in Chinatown has watched my sister and me grow up, and her questions have transitioned from “you in high school yet?” to “you getting married yet?”

But how do boba drinks fit into a healthy lifestyle? We have all come to learn that sugar-saturated sodas, milkshakes and frappes are not the best options for a health-conscious student. But what about our beloved boba drinks?

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar each day for women, and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men. Added sugar is any sugar that does not naturally occur in foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains or milk.

Consuming just one 16-ounce boba drink will likely push you over the recommended limit of 25 or 36 grams of added sugar a day.

So, what if you are like me and are not willing to give up your love of boba? There are a few ways to make your boba addiction healthier.

Healthy Tips

  1. Rather than picking 100% sweetness, move down a step to 75% sweetness, or even lower. 
  2. Do your wallet a favor and go for the smaller size instead of the medium or large.
  3. Ask if they can use 2% or skim milk rather than whole milk or cream. It may not taste as rich, but if you are like me, chewing on the bubbles will keep you satisfied.
  4. Choose drinks that use real tea or real fruit, rather than artificial powders. While drinks made from real tea and fruit may still contain a lot of sugar, they contain fiber and other nutrients that artificial powders do not.
  5. Skip the fancy jellies, bursting boba and flans. The original black tapioca pearls tend to contain less sugar, as long as the syrup they are stored in gets drained off instead of poured into your drink.
  6. If you drink boba beverages almost every day, progressively limit yourself to just one or two boba drinks a week.
  7. Drinks made from only real fruit also contain a significant amount of sugar. Consider drinking half and saving the rest for tomorrow.