By Claire Hou
Why is it that Starbucks in the U.S. are becoming increasingly empty? The answer to this question, as it is to many others, is bubble tea.
According to the Tea Association of the USA, around 87 percent of American millennials are tea-drinkers. Capitalizing on this interest, the bubble tea market has been growing exponentially as this once-niche industry welcomes new waves of customers every day.
Bubble tea may be familiar to us as people living in China– we all have our orders down to a tee (thirty percent sugar, no ice, with grass jelly and coconut please). But for non-Asians in America, the variety of options in a single bubble tea order is something of a novelty.
“One hundred percent sweetness,” a clerk at Boba Guys in New York said to a customer, “is like a Coke.”
The story goes that bubble tea was created almost 30 years ago in Taichung, Taiwan, when a manager poured the tapioca pearls from her pudding into a glass of Asam Tea. Bubble tea soon became a huge hit in Tawian and throughout Asia– and it has finally broken into Western markets in recent years. Many franchises are opening locations near college campuses in hopes that Asian students will introduce their non-Asian friends to this particular dimension of Asian culture– and it seems to be working.
According to the New York Times, “Vivi Bubble Tea, a franchise business, has 45 shops in the United States, most of them on the East Coast, and seven more under construction. Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng Company, which is based in Taiwan, has four stores in New York City and 26 in other states. CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice has 32 locations in the country, 22 of them in New York City.”
Of course, these numbers have got nothing on the sheer number of bubble tea stores here in China, and Shanghai in particular. There seems to be a 1点点 on every corner, enough to rival the number of Starbucks. As the market continues to grow in the US, however, it seems we all have a little piece of home to look forward to as we go off to college, or whatever endeavors that the future may hold in store.