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Is Bubble Tea Vegetarian?

The increasing popularity of bubble tea begs the question for some conscious individuals on whether or not bubble tea is vegetarian or vegan friendly. Walking throughout campus or even the busy streets of New York City, there is a good chance you’ll find yourself stumbling upon a bubble tea shop close by.

Next time you’re walking around popular cities like New York City, San Francisco or Toronto, just count how many boba shops you pass by and maybe let us know how many you saw! (We’re curious too). 

Bubble tea has steadily gained a tremendous amount of popularity over the past decade and it’s only growing.

But should you be drinking bubble tea if you’re a vegan? Let’s find out together!

What Bubble Tea is Made of

For the most part, bubble tea consists of the following ingredients: brewed tea, sugar or sweetener, tapioca pearls or fruit jelly and some sort of milk or creamer. There may be some differences that are unique to a specific bubble tea shop or cafe but for the most part, these are the ingredients that make up your delicious bubble tea.

Doesn’t seem all that complicated right? Let’s dive deeper and figure out if these ingredients are right for the vegetarians or vegans of all kinds.

Is Brewed Tea Vegan Friendly?

Yes. Freshly brewed tea from authentic loose leaves are completely vegan friendly. When brewing tea with loose leaves, it’s fair to say that the only product used is a plant based product. As a result, most teas are naturally friendly as you can imagine, safe for vegetarians and vegans of all sorts.

Vegetarian: a person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons.

Vegan: a person who does not eat or use animal products.

The question of whether tea is vegetarian or vegan friendly gets a bit dicey is when the tea that you buy includes other ingredients or blends.

Other ingredients that are commonly included in teas may be some type of honey, artificial flavorings or dyes that may be considered unfriendly to both vegetarians and vegans. Be sure to avoid these ingredients when buying loose leaf tea for making bubble tea at home.

If you’re out buying bubble tea at your favorite local boba shop, be sure to ask if your desired bubble tea flavor is brewed with fresh tea leaves with no added flavors, dyes or other non-friendly vegan ingredients.

Is Sugar Vegan Friendly?

Unfortunately not all sugar or sweeteners in bubble tea are vegan friendly.

Typically in bubble tea, boba shops will use one of the following to sweeten their bubble tea offerings: simple syrup, artificial sweetener or honey.

Simple Syrup

When creating simple syrup whether it’s with white sugar or brown sugar, it’s more than likely that the sugar used is not vegan friendly. Many sugars actually contain bone char if you did not know. (Surprising, we know). With that said, it’s obvious that it’s not vegetarian or vegan friendly. Bone char is typically used to give sugar cane its white appearance or color, essentially functioning as an aesthetic measure for sugar cane.

Artificial Sweeteners

Now for artificial sweeteners, typically these are made in labs from very smart individuals, you might be one of them! It’s easy to say that since artificial sweeteners are made in labs that they tend to be vegan friendly.

But here’s where it gets a bit hairy. If these artificial sweeteners were tested in any way with animals, it draws a fine line between being vegan friendly. When ordering bubble tea, if you’re very concerned with artificial sweeteners, we would recommend to opt out from including this in your milk tea or ask for a substitute.  

Honey

Now I think we know the answer here, honey is not vegan friendly. Without getting too involved with why honey may or may not be vegan friendly we’ll just shed some light on why the vegan lifestyle might consider honey as non-vegan friendly.

Many argue that honey bees do not produce honey for humans let alone any other living being. With that said, taking or extracting honey is actually abusive to honey bees as they need it to survive.

So, maybe honey isn’t a good option for a sweetener in your bubble tea if you’re all about that vegan lifestyle.

Are Tapioca Pearls Vegan Friendly?

Yes. Tapioca pearls are usually made with cassava root, which as you can imagine is plant based.

So long as the process in which boba shops create their tapioca pearls is animal free from how they handle the creation of it to the use of vegan friendly additives then it’s safe to consume tapioca pearls if you’re a vegan.

Yay, go vegan friendly tapioca pearls!

Is the Milk in Bubble Tea Vegan?

It depends. If your local bubble tea shops uses typical dairy product like whole milk for their creamers or milk for your bubble tea, than no it is not vegan friendly. Although many bubble tea shops now include alternatives for the vegan lifestyle.

Be sure to ask your bubble tea barista if they have vegan friendly substitutes. Popular substitutes for dairy milk or creamers include the following but there’s many more beyond this list.

Is Bubble Tea Vegan?

Yes, so long as you make the right substitutes, you can have a very delicious vegan friendly bubble tea for yourself. As we mentioned it all depends on the ingredients that are in your bubble tea provided by your local boba shop.

So long as you keep the 5 ingredients in bubble tea in mind, you can begin to substitute what is necessary in order to create  your very own vegan friendly bubble tea.

Let us know if you accidentally stumble upon a really great vegan bubble tea, we’d love to share it with our vegan boba lovers in our exclusive group at Talk Boba.

Thanks for reading and like always, talk about boba, duh!

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