Boba shortage has bubble tea lovers clutching their tapioca pearls


BERLIN, GERMANY – AUGUST 22: A young woman sips bubble tea outside a bubble tea cafe on August 22, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Bubble tea, which fuses Asian tea with milk or fruit syrups and sometimes contains balls of tapioca, originated in Taiwan and has most recently spread in popularity to North America and Europe. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A boba shortage has bubble tea lovers across the US clutching their tapioca pearls at the thought of being denied the sweet, chewy topping in their drinks.

First toilet paper, then hand sanitizer and now boba supplies are running low nationwide due to a global supply chain issue.

For the uninitiated, bubble tea consists of black tea and milk shaken together with syrupy tapioca pearls, served cold and with a straw wide enough to suck the boba through.

While the types of tea and additional toppings may vary, the boba have been the essential ingredient in bubble tea since it was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s, according to Bubble Tea Supply.

According to The Boba Guys, who run a factory in California and cafes in the Bay Area, a nationwide boba shortage began as the global pandemic caused, “congestion and shortage in the supply chain.”

They said “99%” of boba comes from Taiwan and supplies have been diminished as the pandemic impacted both the manufacturing and shipping sectors. They said tapioca starch made from cassava used in making boba is also running low in the U.S.

“Some companies are already out and most will be out in the next week or so,” Bin from Boba Guys said in the post.

Another issue is boxes and boxes of boba are floating on delayed cargo ships rather than reaching U.S. ports, due in part to the large container ship that got stuck at an angle in the Suez Canal for about a week at the end of March.

Supply chain expert Nada R. Sanders said it may take two months for shipments to flow normally and timely again.

David Fan, from Fanale Drinks, joined the Boba Guys saying, “America is having trouble importing anything from overseas, especially from Asia. The post and container issues are impacting us, along with apparel, electronics, or anything that isn’t made domestically.”

So how long will this shortage last?

“We’re talking about four to five months now,” Andrew said.

The Boba Guys ended their video reiterating that it is not the café or shops’ fault that this shortage is happening, so ‘don’t get mad’ — It is a global thing.

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