The Myth Behind Bubble Tea

Arms of a LiHo bubble tea staff covered with order receipts. Image taken from All Singapore Stuff/Facebook

When confirmed COVID-19 cases in Singapore reached over 10,000, Singapore’s “circuit breaker” reaction closed the majority of bubble tea shops in order to reduce further spread of the virus. After all, bubble tea does not belong to “Essential Service.” Or does it? On the 22nd of April, the day before the closure of Bubble tea shops across Singapore, every bubble tea shop was jam-packed with citizens fighting for their “last cup” of the much-coveted treat.

Back in the days when SAS halls were filled with students coming and going, we saw students carrying bubble tea around at school, and the security at the high school side gate became a practical drive through; the access point became the meeting point of delivery riders transporting all kinds of drinks. Bubble tea has become one of the most popular beverages in the world, with a market valued at $2.4 billion in 2019 and is estimated to reach $4.3 billion by 2027.

Image taken from Singaporefoodie.com

What was once a vendor-only beverage, now can be made in the comfort of your own home. To satiate our bubble tea cravings, LiHo launched a DIY bubble tea kit with packaged tea leaves, creamer, golden pearl, raw sugar, including cups and straws. The ready-to-make recipe comes in either regular tea flavor or black tea oat latte flavor.

So why is bubble tea this irresistible? Is it the pearls? the cheap price? or the trend? Beyond the opinions of bubble tea lovers, there are also scientific factors lying behind this popular drink.

The secret actually hides behind the tea and caffeine.

Image taken from economictimes.indiatimes.com.

Now you might say that normal tea and coffee all have caffeine. But you have to admit that some of you are addicted to coffee right? What’s more shocking, is that no matter how you make the bubble tea, it always has more caffeine than a cup of coffee, and about four times more caffeine than a can of Coke. But why is caffeine addictive?

When one consumes caffeine, it goes to the brain. It’s attracted to the receptor and binds with it. Since it looks like a chemical in the brain called adenosine, as time goes by, the brain will think that you are producing more adenosine, and therefore it creates more receptors. And this is when you crave for bubble tea, because your brain is subconsciously telling you you need it. And then there’s the additives: whole milk, and loads of sugar or sweet syrups of all sugar levels and flavors. Unfortunately, any anti-oxident qualities of tea are pretty much negated by the inflammatory qualities of sugars (and, for some, dairy) on the human body.

Image taken from http://www.unitypoint.org

But even after knowing that bubble tea is loaded with sugar, fat, and other unhealthy ingredients (and that drinking it daily probably pushes you beyond the recommended calorie consumption), most of you won’t quit drinking bubble tea. It is such a good way to relieve all the stress and tiredness after a day of intense work. All we can do is to reduce the time of drinking it and try not to rely on it all the time. Maybe after a month of bubble tea shops being closed, you won’t be craving it as much as you used to do. But, I doubt it.

Author: Christine(Qiao) Li

Christine (Qiao) Li is currently a senior and this is her first year working for The Eye. She is from China and spent most of her childhood there, but came to Singapore several years ago. In her freetime, she likes to get involved in music and arts, listen to music and drink bubble tea. She can be contacted at li48695@sas.edu.sg.

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