What is in a bubble tea powder?

Here are some possible lists of ingredients for "Mango Bubble-Tea Powder" (and I've seen all of them).

  1. Ing: Mango powder, non-dairy creamer
  2. Ing: Mango powder, non-dairy creamer, partially hydrogenated soybean old, corn syrup solids, potassium caseinate, dipotasium phosphate, artificial flavor
  3. Ing: Mango powder, non-dairy creamer, glucose, natural flavor
The Mango Powder isn't ground mango, it's bulk mango powder flavoring meant for baking and food use.  Usually it's Mango flavoring distributed evenly on something like dextrose (glucose, a not very sweet sugar).

Example 2 is what happens when the distributor copies the label from the bag incorrectly.  Everything after non-dairy creamer IS non-dairy creamer, in the original product these were in parentheses originally.

Example 3 could be a breakdown of 1 via the same mechanism (Mango powder containing natural flavor and glucose).

So here is the breakdown:

Mango Flavoring + powder  = Mango Powder
Mango Powder + creamer = Mango bubble tea powder

I've rarely seen anything more complicated than this, but there are exceptions.  The Taro I like (neptune ice) probably contains some real Taro powder.  I know some of the red bean powders contain actual ground red beans.  But these are the exceptions, not the rule.  Often some coloring is added as well.

This leads to a few interesting questions:  Could someone make bubble tea with either just the pure Mango Flavoring or the Mango Powder ingredient?  Would they be cheaper and/or better?

Certainly using the base flavoring would be much, much cheaper, as you would are shipping around either the powder in the Mango Powder or the creamer in the bubble tea powder.  Also these flavors are very inexpensive, say $10 for 8 oz.  At 1% final concentration, an 8oz bottle would make 100 8oz drinks.

Using the flavor powder might be easier, but there isn't going to be a big cost savings.  Let's guess that Bubble tea powder is half flavor powder and half creamer.  Bubble tea powders cost around $5 to $10 a lbs, and flavor powders from (for example) Nature's Flavors are $10 a lb.  I don't know if the concentration would be the same.

It's easy to estimate the amount of creamer in a bubble tea powder if you have the nutritional information.  Creamer is the only possible source of fat, and creamer is 25% by weight fat.  So if a powder has 13g/fat per 100g, it is 50% creamer (13 * 4 = 52g creamer, or half the total of 100g).  50% creamer seems to be a typical ratio in the powders I've looked at.

You can also estimate added sugars this way.  Creamer is usually 50% carbohydrate, so in the example above anything more than 25g of carbohydrate in the final product is likely due to sugar added in addition to the creamer.