How Can I Drink Bubble Tea Without Finishing the Tea Before the Bobas?

There is data science and there is boba science

Photo: d3sign/Moment/Getty Images; all other images: Krist Wongsuphasawat

1. Cup Dimension

The shape of the cup affects how well bobas can stack up. If the cup is wider, the bobas spread more and you get fewer bobas per sip.

Comparing different cups: top, slim cup; bottom, wide cup

2. What You Put in the Cup

Of course, the more tea, more chance of success. More bobas mean less space for tea and more bobas to finish. Ice is an additional variable that takes up space, but also melts and gradually increases tea volume.

Simulations for different amount of ingredients: top, no ice; middle, more boba; bottom, with ice

3. How You Drink It

Not everybody drinks the optimized sip. Consuming more tea per sip or aggressively sucking bobas or drinking so slowly that all the ice melts can all affect the results. See the comparison of these three cases:

  1. more tea per sip (200% of tea in an optimized sip)
  2. more bobas per sip (200% of bobas in an optimized sip)
Comparing various drinking styles: top, optimized sip; middle, more tea per sip; bottom, more bobas per sip

Create Your Own Simulation

Use this interactive simulator to simulate how long it could take to finish a cup of bubble tea in your own drinking style. See if you can finish the bobas before the tea.

Create your own simulation!


Based on the simulations above, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t add too much ice. If you add ice, let it melt to add volume to the tea. I usually shake my cup before drinking to ensure the entire drink is cold in case the ice was dropped on top without shaking or stirring. The trade-off is that it might dilute the tea.
  • It’s better to take a powerful sip than a weak sip. Powerful sips ensure you get the bobas, while weak sips may only give you the tea. Just don’t be so aggressive you end up choking.

Credits and Disclaimer

This interactive article was heavily inspired by this lighthearted yet informative Facebook post about bubble tea from ME สาระ with Chatriel さん. (The original post was in Thai.) I adopted the idea for simulation by computing the volume of tea and boba in each sip. This article uses its own calculation for simulation, cup volume, and drink height and adds ice to the simulation.

Data Experience @airbnb / Prev: Turn data into pixels @twitter • Invent new vis @UofMaryland HCIL PhD • From @Thailand •

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