Having spent a whole year working at a bubble store in Seattle, I've learned pretty much all there is to know about this refreshing drink. But when a customer asked if bubble tea is vegan, I was baffled that I didn't know the answer. Is bubble tea vegan? I mean, it doesn't use any animal products so it must be vegan, right? Diving deep into the depths of the web and my own knowledge, I developed a bubble tea guide for those of you new to the world of bubble tea. 

What Is Bubble Tea?

milk, tea, coffee
Jane Yeo

Bubble tea. Boba. Milk tea. There are so many ways to describe this amazingly customizable drink. This versatile thirst quencher has been loved by Asian Americans for many years, but it's becoming more popular with many non-Asians as well. But what is it, really? Essentially, bubble tea is a mixture of tea, milk, and tapioca pearls. Customers can mix different types of tea (usually green, black, or red tea) with a creamer element and toppings. That sounds incredibly yummy, but is bubble tea vegan? Well, it depends.  

Is Bubble Tea Vegan? 

Ayesha Godil

Because the drink is so versatile, not every bubble tea is vegan. To avoid animal products altogether, you might want to skip the tapioca pearls (aka boba pearls). Although most boba is made from the cassava root, many stores sweeten their pearls with honey or other non-vegan ingredients. Another topping to avoid is the pudding. The pudding is usually made using eggs, so be cautious. 

However, there are many different types of bubble tea toppings that are vegan. Lychee jelly, rainbow jelly, and numerous other forms of jelly are usually safe options. These jellies are made from sugar, fructose, and other ingredients that don't include animal products. In addition, grass jelly is a topping similar to tapioca pearls that I recommend. Keep in mind that although this jelly is often sweetened with sugar syrup, some stores could use honey, so ask beforehand.

milk, juice, yogurt
Jisoo Kim

Another key ingredient in bubble tea is milk (often sweetened condensed milk). Does this mean you can't truly have a vegan bubble tea? Not quite. There are alternatives you can add to customize your drink in a way to make is truly vegan. Instead of milk, you can choose almond milk, soy milk, or even avoid milk altogether.

#SpoonTip: Don't add milk to your bubble tea. Instead, follow this format: fruit + type of tea + choice of vegan topping. I recommend peach black tea with lychee jelly and light ice. 

With so many ways to customize your bubble tea, it's pretty easy to create a vegan drink you'll love. Just remember that every store makes bubble tea differently, so always ask to see the ingredients list on their boba, jellies, and other toppings if it's unclear whether or not they're vegan. Now that you've reached the end of this article, you've practically mastered the art of bubble tea. All that's left is for you to go out and start sampling as much boba as you can handle.