Date
24 October 2017
Unexpectedly chewy pearls in a reporter's bubble tea showed up as a cluster of round objects in a scan of her stomach. Photos: internet, YouTube
Unexpectedly chewy pearls in a reporter's bubble tea showed up as a cluster of round objects in a scan of her stomach. Photos: internet, YouTube

Why pearls in woman’s bubble tea were as chewy as shoe leather

It’s enough to put you off your bubble tea.

The chewy tapioca pearls in the popular summer drink, which originated in Taiwan, give the tea its name.

But as frequently happens in mainland China, what you see isn’t always what you get.

A courageous but perhaps foolhardy reporter from Shandong Television took part in an experiment to determine whether the pearls in a cup of bubble tea she bought at the market were really made of tapioca.

She eventually swallowed the “bubbles” after having chewed them for some time without succeeding in breaking them down.

After the reporter had rested for about 30 minutes, a doctor conducted a CT scan of her stomach.

Clusters of white balls were seen inside her stomach, which the doctor said were unlikely to be digested by the body.

Clearly, the traditional recipe for making edible tapioca pearls had been sidestepped.

So, what were those bubbles made of?

Business insiders told the reporter fake pearls like those she swallowed are produced in chemical plants, often from used tires and shoe soles.

If the pearls in the drink are made from tapioca, they should be rich in starch and nowhere to be seen in the scan results, having been digested.

A second CT scan, after the reporter drank some bubble tea containing real tapioca pearls, confirmed this is true.

She then took samples of the fake pearls to be tested at a laboratory.

The technician failed to identify what they were made of.

The only thing he could be certain of is that the pearls strongly displayed the characteristics of plastic.

The doctor said consumption of plastic pearls could cause blockages in the intestines.

Children and the elderly are more likely to suffer, as their digestive systems are weaker than those of adults.

(Mandarin only)

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