C Magazine

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Boba Beware

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The recognizable cups with the air-tight plastic seals are all too familiar. You see the drinks everywhere, but the question has always lurked in your mind: what is in these obscure balls sinking to the bottom of my tea?

Within the past couple of years, boba has grown to be especially popular around the Bay Area, and there is now an abundance of boba shops that can be found. These locations include Teaspoon, T4, TPumps and many more. C Magazine ventured to various boba shops to expose the truth behind the suspicious drinks.

According to the Huffington Post, boba, also known as tapioca pearls, comes from the root of the cassava plant, which is found in South America. The pearls are floury white and hard when they are first extracted, but later earn their bounce and brown tint from being soaked in a bath of sugar water.

One of the more popular boba places in Palo Alto is T4. Maddy McNee, a senior at Paly and T4 employee, recognized that there is a flaw with the way T4 makes their drinks.

“People ask me how many calories are in a drink and we really don’t know because there are so many components that go in and it is really complicated to calculate,” McNee said.

This issue persists in many boba places; the calorie count in the drinks are not on the menu and employees rarely know the answer.

Recently, Teaspoon, a popular chain amongst the local boba spots, opened in Palo Alto with a great amount of excitement surrounding its reveal. When we asked an employee where they had sourced their boba from, they didn’t seem to know. “I know it’s from the Teaspoon headquarters but not sure where before that,” Paly junior and Teaspoon employee Angela Liu said. If the employees are uncertain of where their boba comes from, how are we, vulnerable consumers, supposed to trust it?

Boba has become such a fad in culture today, but sadly many people are blind to the chemicals they are consuming. German researchers from the University Hospital Aachen have found tapioca pearls to contain a cancerous chemical known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. Along with these cancerous chemicals, there have been many studies regarding the obscene amount of sugar being put into these drinks. According to many health experts, boba tea poses many health risks such as obesity and diabetes. They have claimed that a 12-ounce serving could contain over 490 calories.

The boba trend will continue and who knows when the downfall will be. More boba shops will open and more tapioca pearls will be consumed. The next time you sip from the familiar plastic cups, remember – there may be health detriments!