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:
- Tapioca balls (“boba”) – These are made from the cassava plant and are almost always vegan (it’s safe to assume they are).
- Milk and creamer – Obviously dairy versions of these are not vegan. But many stores offer non-dairy milk and creamer if you ask for it.
- Brewed tea – While some teas are not vegan, the ones most bubble tea stores use are (since they’re adding their own flavoring anyways).
- Sugar – Not all types of sugar are vegan. I would hold off on it to be on the safe side.
- Fruit jelly (grass jelly) – This is sometimes vegan (made with agar agar powder – from seaweed, or from lychee jelly) but sometimes made with gelatin (an animal product that’s not vegan). If they call it “agar jelly,” it’s almost certainly vegan.
In Summary: How to Find 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:
- Get tapioca balls or agar jelly as toppings (or ask if their “fruit jelly” or “grass jelly” is vegan).
- Stick to fruit bubble teas when possible, as they don’t have any milk or cream usually.
- If you want a milk or cream-based bubble tea, ask for non-dairy milk or cream.
- 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.