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How Much Sugar are You Drinking?: Boba Milk Tea vs Starbucks Drinks

How Much Sugar are You Drinking?: Boba Milk Tea vs Starbucks Drinks

Photo by Julian Christian Anderson on Unsplash


Given its popularity and hype on social media, boba milk tea is the “Avengers: Endgame” of sweet drinks. Also known as bubble tea, boba tea is a famous drink in the Philippines – everywhere you turn, there’s a milk tea store with long queues and upbeat Korean music.

Milk tea was first introduced as a treat for children in Taiwan back in the 1980s. It has everything a child could ever want in a beverage: milk, sugar, and cute, tiny things to chew on.

It’s really no surprise bubble tea has taken the world by storm.

Frappuccino® is just ice, sugar, and artificial flavoring. But everyone can’t get enough of it Image from Pixabay 

I can still distinctly remember when Starbucks Frappuccinos® were all the rage in my childhood. My face would light up at the sight of the mermaid in the green logo and I would run to the counter to order my favorite Blended Creme Caramel Frappuccino® drink. My friends and I would huddle in a table and take photos of all of our drinks with point-and-shoot digital cameras, posting them on our Friendster pages with captions like “~ch33rs to fri3ndShiP ^^”.

Oh, those were the days.

A little trivia for you. The word “Frappuccino” wasn’t invented by Starbucks but coined and initially trademarked in the early ‘90sby George Howell’s coffee shop in Boston called The Coffee Connection. When the coffee shop was bought by Starbucks, the multinational chain then had the rights to use and sell the Frappuccino drink.

Although the Starbucks menu isn’t as massive as a milk tea shop’s, it has a pretty solid selection of flavors for its Frappuccinos®, such as strawberry, vanilla, and matcha. Often paired with a Starbucks sandwich, they’re perfect for a pick-me-up after a long day.

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

But both milk tea and Starbucks drinks are filled with sugar.

Too much sugar can cause a lot of health problems, from acne and weight gain to heart disease and diabetes. So between boba and Starbucks, which is the lesser evil?

In a recent experiment commissioned by Channel News Asia, Applied Food Science and Nutrition students found out that for every 500ml of brown sugar milk tea, a craze in the Philippines, there was about 92g of sugar in it, which is thrice the amount of what a 320ml Coca-Cola soda contains.

However, there is an injustice to the boba.

People are quick to demonize the milk tea craze given the talk around the tea-and-sugar disparity, but people are also quick to forget the sugar content in Starbucks Frappuccinos®.

A Grande-sized (around 474ml) Starbucks Caffe Vanilla Frappuccino, whole milk with whipped cream, contains 69g of sugar. Sounds better? Not really.

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The numbers may be in favor of Starbucks, but do remember that milk tea chains also have sugar level options: 100 percent, 75 percent, 25 percent, and 0 percent. You have more control over the sugar content of your milk tea. With Starbucks, the best you can do is refuse whipped cream and opt for soy instead of whole milk. But the drink’s sugar content stays near-stagnant.


Photo by Lee Soo hyun on Unsplash

The Verdict

In terms of flexibility of sugar levels, milk tea takes the crown. When it comes to choosing what’s best for your health, though, maybe avoid either on the regular.

Too much of anything can be bad, even if it tickles your sweet tooth.

Will I give up milk tea? Probably not. But I know better now than to chug it down like a tall glass of water.

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  • But you can actually ask your starbucks barista to lessen the syrup or sauce of your drink, right? You can fully customize your drink in starbucks!

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