Boba can go by a lot of different names, but in order to call it vegan, it can’t contain any animal products.
If you’re a vegan looking to try boba, then you’re in luck! Since most boba pearls are made entirely from plant-based ingredients. However, this may be a different story for the surrounding sweet tea.
Generally speaking: yes! Boba is vegan – however, this is determined by what flavors you get.
With this in mind, this article will be looking at everything you need to know about boba and its role in veganism.
What Is Boba?
Boba can be referred to as either the popular Boba drink itself or the tapioca pearls found within the drink.
Originating in Taiwan in the 1980s, boba is gaining popularity all around the world, whether you call it tapioca tea, bubble tea, or pearl tea.
The boba balls, or tapioca pearls, themselves are composed of cassava starch, a root vegetable (You might want to check out these Incredible Vegan Turnip Recipes To Try Right Now) native to South America.
Typically, these are then soaked in a simple syrup mixture to make them sweet.
Generally, the drink is made from a mixture of milk, tea, and, of course, tapioca pearls. There is a range of different toppings, flavors, and pearls to choose from – allowing you to make a truly unique drink.
Cassava Root (Tapioca Starch)
Tapioca is found in the starch derived from the cassava root, whereas the tapioca pearls are flavored with a mixture of water, tapioca flour, and sometimes sugar.
Since boba is customizable, there remains a chance that other ingredients are included in the drink; however, for the most part, cassava root is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.
Potential Non-Vegan Ingredients
The main ingredient to be wary of in boba is milk. If you’re looking for a 100% vegan boba then you’ll have to make it with non-dairy milk.
Since there are many different types of boba tea, this is important to consider.
Typically, boba is served as a fruity or milky drink. Therefore, when ordering, make sure to specify your requirements.
Below, you will find some potential non-vegan ingredients:
Non-organic white sugar is typically manufactured with bone char (powdered animal bones) to achieve its whiteness – for this reason, many vegans tend to avoid it.
While there are no animal-byproducts remaining in the final product, many vegans will opt out of consuming it simply because it has been in contact with animals.
Refined cane sugar is also another type of white sugar that is usually harvested from beet sugar or sugarcane. Although, these too aren’t always vegan-friendly.
Therefore, sticking to organic sugar is the best option here.
Sometimes, artificial sweeteners are tested on animals to determine the safety of the food for human consumption; this goes against many vegans’ morals.
The artificial sweetener known as Splenda, or sucralose, is composed of maltodextrin, dextrose, and sucralose – which is technically vegan.
However, it’s not until you look deeper into the company that you’ll find the issue.
For instance, the company that owns Splenda, Heartland Food Products, has performed animal testing on more than 12,000 mice, rabbits, and dogs in the last twenty years.
For instance, one experiment conducted by the company involved feeding Splenda to dogs.
32 beagles were locked in one cage together for an entire year, and once the experiment was over, their throats were slit.
Therefore, as you can see, while the ingredients may not contain any animal byproducts, it’s the unnecessary animal cruelty that many vegans have an issue with.
As previously mentioned, the most obvious reason why your boba wouldn’t be vegan is that it contains milk.
Classic boba tea is composed of cow’s milk and dairy powder or sweetened condensed milk to achieve the full-bodied, creamy flavor of the drink.
Having said that, this ingredient is easy to avoid. Simply replace milk with a healthier alternative such as oat milk, soy milk, vegan creamer, or even coconut milk.
One of the main reasons vegans refuse to drink milk is because of the cruel practices that take place in dairy farming. For example, calves are unwillingly separated from their mothers, to name one.
This is an obvious example of a non-vegan ingredient sometimes found in boba. However, luckily for you, it is easy to avoid when purchasing vegan bubble tea.
Boba pearls, otherwise known as tapioca balls, are these small spherical balls that make the drink iconic. These are sometimes coated in honey or other non-vegan ingredients.
However, the tapioca pearls themselves are entirely vegan.
You can also get plant-based popping pearls which are made from sugar, fruit juice, water, and alginic acid (found in algae).
One thing about boba is that it doesn’t contain any gelatin (Find out Is Jello Vegan?), so you shouldn’t have to worry about this ingredient.
There are two different types of both – the milky drink or the fruity version. The difference between these two drinks is the main liquid.
This is composed of either fructose or sucrose – it doesn’t contain any animal products.
This is composed of agar-agar, creamer, and lychee fruit. These provide a burst of flavor to your drink which sinks to the bottom and infuses delightfully with the liquid tea.
If you’re looking for a good alternative to tapioca pearls, then grass jelly is a great vegan substitute.
Other toppings available that you may find include pineapple jelly, strawberry popping boba, fig jelly, or even coffee jelly.
Boba is a deliciously refreshing drink that can be enjoyed both hot and cold.
With a wide range of flavors, toppings, and pearls to choose from – you can customize this drink exactly to your taste and dietary requirements.
While the tapioca pearls themselves are vegan, there are some other ingredients to look out for which are not. Hopefully, this guide has informed you on whether or not boba is vegan.