Boba shops across US in crisis

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Ayla Azizalili

Boba Guys, a popular chain in the U.S. is dealing with the boba crisis facing tea shops in the U.S.

Bubble tea shops nationwide worry that there will be no more boba to sell due to a nationwide shipping delay.

According to San Francisco Chronicle, boba shops are dealing with shipment delays due to a West Coast port pile-up of shipping containers. A lot of it is blamed on the pandemic since it is causing congestion.

Most shops in the United States are reliant on importing boba from Asia. Other shops buy boba from local suppliers, but those rely on tapioca imports, which also face delays. Boba Guys, a popular chain with 11 locations in the Bay Area, posted a video on Instagram discussing the issue with the founders and the supplier of Fanale Drinks, David Fan.

“America is having trouble importing anything from overseas, especially from Asia. The port and the container issues are impacting us along with apparel, electronics, or anything that isn’t made domestically,” Fan said. “Even though we make our own tapioca pearls right here in Hayward, we still depend on one key ingredient, which is the tapioca starch that derives from the cassava plant, which is not grown here natively to the U.S.”

Even though the company does not rely on premade boba shipped from outside of the U.S, they are dealing with the issue that tapioca starch won’t be available.

Many shops are worried that there will be no more boba to serve. Tommy Huang, the senior sales manager at Leadway International, told San Francisco Chronicle that people could see shortages as soon as next week, and it can take a while for the boba to be seen again.

“In the next week or so, tapioca will be a luxury because no one is going to have it. It’s going to take a long time to be able to say we will not have a shortage of tapioca,” Huang said.

According to Eater, many shops in Los Angeles are not very concerned, despite the shortage most of the country faces. Tomas Su, the owner of Sunright Tea, says that there is not a need to worry.

“In the absolute worst-case scenario, maybe your small local mom-and-pop boba shops [won’t] have boba on the menu for a day or two, or they have to reach out to a different distributor, but it’s not going to affect boba drinkers because most shops buy in bulk for months in advance,” Su said.

Despite Los Angeles having no worries, many boba shops are still concerned about not having any supplies. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the owner of Tea & Others, Alex Ou, said that many customers mainly order their tea with boba.

“Some people will not buy the drink if we’re out of boba,” Ou said. “They’re literally here for the boba.”

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