Toxic Bubble Tea in Taiwan

Photo courtesy Toby Oxborro

Photograph by Toby Oxborro

I have never been a fan of bubble tea (milk tea with chewy tapioca balls) due to the fact that it is loaded with sugar. But now, there is an even more compelling reason to avoid the drink.

According to  a recent article in The Wall Street Jounal, “Taiwanese health officials have confiscated more than 312 tons of food starch- a key ingredient in bubble tea – that was found to have been tainted with maleic acid, a cheap food additive  that can cause kidney failure when consumed in large doses”.

This is a big deal, seeing as bubble tea is the unofficial national drink of Taiwan. Invented 30 years ago on the island, the average Taiwanese person can drink up to 2-3 cups a day.

Today, many Taiwanese have stopped drinking bubble tea until it is proven to be safe.Other foods to be avoided are glutinous dumplings, hakka rice noodles, and sweet taro balls, as they are made with food starch.

So what do I drink during these hot summer days? I’m hooked on half green tea, half fresh squeezed grapefruit juice on ice (sans sugar of course). Currently, it’s hands down my favorite drink in the world.

And for only $45NT ($1.50US), it comes at just the right price.

Half green tea, half fresh squeezed grapefruit on ice.


  1. nooooo! I am obsessed with bubble tea. Luckily it should still be safe in the states, yes? (as much as anything can be assured to be safe, that is)

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