The answer to whether bubble tea is vegan or not is both yes and no. It depends on what you order. It’s straightforward to make bubble tea vegan, but be aware of what is safe for you to order.
What Base Tea Can You Get?
Bubble tea is either milky or fruity. The first is made from a milk-based tea which can be warm or cold. The other is closer to iced tea.
Unfortunately, milky bubble tea is not vegan – unless it’s made from plant-based milk. So, if you’re vegan, you need to order a fruity drink.
If you prefer milky bubble tea, you can ask a cafe to make it with vegan milk. Soya or coconut milk bubble tea is somewhat growing in popularity, but generally, plant-based milky bubble tea is not something that’s available in most places.
If in doubt, order a fruity bubble tea. The options available are usually black tea, green tea, and rooibos tea. Sometimes herbal teas are available too. Some places have fun flavors like strawberry or mango.
As a vegan myself, I like to get mango-green tea with strawberry-flavored pearls!
Is Bubble Tea Vegan?
The bubbles are usually vegan. While jellies are typically made from gelatin, it’s rarely the case with boba.
Some vegans will avoid white sugar. While there are no animal products in white sugar, it’s the manufacturing process that they object to. Bone char acts as a decolorizing filter when making white sugar – this gives it its color!
By extension, a lot of brown sugar is not vegan either. This is because brown sugar is refined sugar with added molasses.
Beet and coconut sugars are not processed with bone char from animals. If brown sugar was made from vegan white sugar, it should be something that worries you. Lots of vegans don’t worry too much about the sugar they consume, given that the rest of their diet is plant-based and the sugar itself doesn’t contain animal products.
If sugar worries you, feel free to ask the staff if they know what sugar they use. If the cafe can’t answer your questions, then you might feel better giving bubble tea a miss for now.
Other Things You May Want To Be Aware Of
Some people like to add jelly to their bubble tea instead of tapioca pearls. This is usually vegan.
The jelly is often made from agar powder, which comes from seaweed or sometimes lychee jelly. If the jelly is listed as agar jelly, it’s vegan. However, as jelly made from gelatin is not vegan friendly, it’s best to ask the staff if it’s not clear if it’s vegan or vegetarian friendly or not.
Other “pearls” like popping bubbles are made from seaweed extract. Rainbow jelly and some other jelly flavors are usually made from coconut meat which is also vegan-friendly.
Some establishments also add diced dried fruit to their fruity bubble tea, which should be vegan too. You might also be interested in learning if chai lattes are vegan.
Can You Make Vegan Bubble Tea Yourself?
It’s possible to make bubble tea and home, but it can be a lot of effort.
Some people buy tapioca pearls in a local store and online and add them to tea they make at home. Others make them from scratch with brown sugar and tapioca starch – which is much more time-consuming.
If you are making some bubble tea at home, you have the freedom to make it with whatever plant-based milk you like. You might also feel better knowing any additional jellies and toppings are vegan too.
If you like this article, read our guide on how to cold brew loose leaf tea.
In this article, we cover how to cold brew chai tea.