Tweens love boba tea. But is caffeine and sugar too much?

Boba tea, also known as bubble tea, has taken over TikTok and the hearts of young people. You may have seen videos of moms and daughters having boba tea dates, the autistic, nonverbal teen who loves boba tea or this tween’s boba-themed birthday party. Even kids seem to love boba tea.

Made in Taiwan, boba tea is a milky, sugary, iced black tea that features tapioca pearls and any number of flavored syrups, fruit blends and other fun toppings. The drink made its way to the United States in the 90s, when young Asian Americans embraced it. Decades later, American tweens of all backgrounds are now hooked, thanks in part, as Bloomberg notes, to its popularity among TikTokers and its association with Korean pop stars like Blackpink . Boba tea shops have become the go-to after-school hangout for many, in addition to being a tween birthday party destination of choice.

Below, boba fans explain their obsession with the drink. And if you’re a parent wondering just how healthy these sugary, caffeinated concoctions your kids are drinking through their oversized straws, keep reading: The experts are here to break it all down.

Why do kids love boba tea?

My daughter has been drinking bubble tea since she was about 7 or 8 years old, says Megan Kinch, an electrician and mother of Esther, 11, in Toronto, Canada. Kinch himself has been familiar with boba tea since the trend hit Toronto in the early 2000s.

Esther told Yahoo Life that she and her friends love bubble tea because it comes in so many different flavors, so if you don’t like one type, there’s always another. Plus, it’s so beautiful and delicious.

LaToya Jordan, a New York-based writer and mother of Billie, 11, says her daughter has been boba since she was 10, when her friends introduced her to boba after school one day. It helps that there are many boba tea shops where they live.

I really like tapioca pearls, said Billie. Many of my friends also like boba. We get boba for lunch sometimes.

Writer Kate Wehr of Montana remembers ordering boba tea with the traditional chewy tapioca pearls when she was in college. But it’s the newer “popping boba” pearls that pop when consumed that have really taken the kids with her daughter Rebekha, 12, in tow.

I like popping bubbles because it’s exciting, says Rebekha, who recently requested to go to the mall for boba as part of her birthday party, an idea she got from a friend who did the same. He was not alone; Billie in New York had a boba-themed party for her 11th birthday.

In addition to renting the space, my wife and I paid for each child to have two boba drinks at the three-hour party, Jordan Yahoo Life. I also spent hours the night before scouring Pinterest for boba tea cakes. I used fondant and transformed two small store-bought cakes into a cute but very quirky boba tea cake.

Billie, who made boba earrings and has boba plushies from her birthday party, says having bubble tea paraphernalia is part of the culture. If you see boba, you’re like, Hey, I like boba too!

Esther has bubble tea earrings and boba stickers on her computer. But Rebekha says some kids she knows don’t really like boba as much as produce. They don’t actually drink bubble tea, but may wear boba-themed socks or other merch to be part of the trend.

Should parents be concerned about the caffeine and sugar in boba tea?

Kinch isn’t concerned about the amount of caffeine in bubble tea. Its way healthier than [soda] and it’s not like an energy drink or a Panera lemonade with near-toxic levels of caffeine, he says. I think it is appropriate for tweens to experiment with tea and sugar drinks.

Jordan, meanwhile, doesn’t want her daughter Billie to develop a daily boba habit or wake up in the morning and need boba, she said. But twice a month is fine with me.

said Dr. Anh Le, a pediatrician at One Medical in California, told Yahoo Life that boba tea has some health benefits. She encourages parents to think of boba as more of a treat food even though she admits it’s one of her favorite drinks when she wants to treat herself to something sweet.

High-sugar drinks are unhealthy for children because they can lead to excessive weight gain and subsequent increased risk for heart disease, fatty liver and diabetes, Le explained. It can also increase the risk of dental cavities. He compares a 16-ounce serving of boba tea that contains about 40 grams of sugar to an equivalent amount of soda (52 grams) or orange juice (about 42 grams of sugar). Since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 8 ounces of juice a day for children between the ages of 7 and 18, boba tea consumption should be similarly restricted because it contains a similar amount. of sugar.

Dr. Amy Middleman, chief of the division of academic pediatrics and adolescent medicine at UH Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital, doesn’t want to describe any food as good or bad, but says parents should consider how the food portions are balanced. for nutritional needs. This type of treatment should be offered in moderation, he told Yahoo Life. And parents should make sure that the child has other necessary nutrients throughout the day.

Le said parents should also be concerned about the amount of caffeine their children are getting from boba drinks. Caffeine has the risk of affecting sleep, increasing irritability and [affecting] concentration, he explained. He does not recommend giving caffeinated beverages to younger children and, for teens, says a safe amount of caffeine in 24 hours is 75 mg to 100 mg of caffeine.

Depending on the type of tea used, the amount of caffeine in an 8-ounce boba tea drink can vary from 30 mg to 50 mg, he says. Your older child will get the maximum amount of caffeine in a standard-sized 16-ounce drink. I would recommend [reducing] the amount of caffeine is as little as possible.

But, as a parent, Kinch believes that worrying about what children eat is overblown. Young people are drinking less alcohol than ever before, and the very young seem to be in fashion,” he said. “I think any kind of moral turpitude around kids drinking tea with tapioca balls is very misplaced.

Kinch sees Esther’s fondness for bubble tea as an extension of her self-expression such as her putting bubble tea and cat sushi stickers on her laptop or occasionally going to get bubble tea by herself or with a friend. It’s a way of being independent and having her own taste and expertise,” Kinch said.

The takeaway

Rebekha doesn’t see the boba tea trend slowing down anytime soon. For parents who want to keep their boba-drinking kids healthier, Le recommends limiting caffeine by choosing herbal teas or fruit slushies, asking for low-sugar options at boba shops and avoiding excessive drinks.

I encourage parents to involve their child in these decisions as well, he said. We want to set them up to form lifelong habits, so letting them know our concerns about drinks and how we can make healthier choices will hopefully cement that in their minds. early, so they can continue to make healthy decisions as adults.

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