It turns out those boba tea pearls don’t digest quite as easily as the bowl of pho they so often accompany. After a 14-year-old girl in China’s Zhejiang province complained to her parents of extreme stomach pain and an inability to eat, having been constipated for five days, her parents took her to a local hospital in hopes of learning the cause of her ailments. Initially, doctors were unable to determine why the teenager’s stomach was so upset, but a CT scan soon discovered more than 100 undigested tapioca pearls in both of her intestines along with her colon and stomach.
A typical boba tea features a small handful of tapioca pearls, and a doctor at the Zhejiang Provincial People’s Hospital suggested the girl must have been rapidly consuming the beverage over the course of multiple days or weeks, overwhelming her digestive system. The teenager, however, claimed she had only had one boba tea drink five days before the incident. According to a report in Metro, a UK-based publication, the doctor suggested that the girl may have feared facing punishment if her parents knew the extent of her boba tea habit, prompting her to initiate a ruse.
Boba tea, also known as bubble tea, originally became popular in Taiwan in the 1980s. Made of milk or fruit, the signature ingredient in boba tea is a collection of small tapioca pearls filled with tea or fruit, which are ingested through a straw and are often not fully chewed. Because they are made of starch and often lined with preservatives, these balls can be tough for the stomach to digest — especially in such high quantities.