Is Bubble Tea Vegan? (Tapioca, Jelly, etc.)


bubble tea

Every street I walk down seems to have a new bubble tea shop opening up.

The good news for vegans is that while not all bubble tea is vegan, many types are.

I’ll break down the common and possible ingredients here, and go over which ones you should avoid.

The Main Ingredients of Bubble Tea

Every shop makes their bubble tea a bit different, but certain types of ingredients are consistent.

IngredientDescriptionIs it Vegan?
Tapioca balls (“boba”)These are made from the cassava plantTapioca is almost always vegan
Milk and creamer Dairy versions of these are not vegan.Only if you can get non-dairy milk
Brewed teaThe “tea” in bubble tea.Almost always (as long as there are no added ingredients)
SugarSome sugar is processed with bone char.It’s likely vegan, you just can’t be sure. Hold off on it if you want to be safe.
Fruit jelly (grass jelly)The jelly can be made with agar agar powder (from seaweed, or from lychee jelly) or an agar replacement, but also gelatin (an animal product that’s not vegan).Agar jelly is vegan but jelly with gelatin is not. You’ll need to ask for more information or omit jelly if “agar” isn’t specified.

In Summary: How to Get Vegan Bubble Tea

Ideally, ask for all vegan ingredients, most shops can accommodate you and give you several options still.

Otherwise, here are some things to keep in mind when ordering bubble tea:

  1. Get tapioca balls or agar jelly as toppings (or ask if their “fruit jelly” or “grass jelly” is vegan).
  2. Stick to fruit bubble teas when possible, as they don’t have any milk or cream usually.
  3. If you want a milk or cream-based bubble tea, ask for non-dairy milk or cream.
  4. Avoid adding sugar unless you’re sure it’s not white sugar.

If you do those 4 things, it’s not too difficult to enjoy bubble tea as a vegan.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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