Lack of another untold epidemic: Boba tea

This week there was a stampede on the West Coast. Over a drink.

This was when beverage aficionados learned that tapioca, the starch used to make sweets, round, chewy black bubbles – or pearls – which are the toppings depicted in popular boba tea drinks, were in short supply.

“I was surprised,” was Lean Yuen, a longtime boba drinker and a student at the University of California at Irvine. “What am I going to do now?”

The impending boba shortage is yet another sign of how the epidemic has uplifted global supply chains, industries, and created a shortage of goods from toilet paper to electronics to ketchup. In this case, increased demand for assembled products abroad, labor shortages due to coronavirus cases or quarantine protocols, have led to a month’s sea pileup at ports in Los Angeles and San Francisco and shipping goods from left ships is. Asia – including tapioca – waiting outside at sea.

Boba or Bubble Tea, a drink that can be made with milk or fruit flavored green or black tea, originated in Taiwan and has steadily increased in popularity and prominence in the United States in the 2000s. Boba suppliers based in the San Francisco Bay Area, running low on Tapioca, said their shipments of fully formed Boba come from Taiwan, while supplying the cassava route, which is used to make tapioca, Thailand And come from the islands of the Pacific Ocean.

“It’s all being held at the dock,” said Ariana Henson, sales representative for Boba distributor Fanley Drinks, which is based in Hayward, California. And supplies thousands of stores across the country. Ms. Hansen said the shipment was supported for several months, and the company’s existing tapioca stock is running dangerously low.

“It’s definitely disappointing – some people have gotten upset with us, but at the same time it’s not really our fault,” Ms Hansia said.

There is no indication that the ship delays will ever end. According to data from the Southern California Marine Exchange, the number of container ships waiting to anchor in Los Angeles or Long Beach reached 40 in February. Kip Lottitt, the executive director of the exchange, said that on Thursday the number of ships dropped to 19, which is still crying from the usual zero to one.

It can take up to a week or more for large cargo ships to land, Mr. Lotit said. Five additional ships are drifting into the sea, as there is no place to fit them in the bay. He said it was an almost unprecedented backup; The ships have not had to wait since 2004.

This type of situation is cramped in San Francisco, where 20 ships are waiting at anchor and 19 are cruising around more “offshore”, compared to anchors with the usual eight or nine of the region’s maritime zones. According to Executive Director Capt. Lynn Korwach. transaction.

“The situation is highly unusual,” she said.

Leadway International Inc., another large Boba supplier in Hayward, also said tapioca stock was low because shipments were coming in lower than normal. The company’s business development director, Edward Shane, said he did not want to call the fear a “deficiency”, which could make matters worse by putting Boba’s shops in hoarding tapioca.

“Store owners are nervous, so they probably order more than they need,” Mr. Shane said.

Ms Hansen said she expected supplies to return to near normal levels by summer.

Meanwhile, curious Boba store owners are investigating somewhere for Tapioca.

“It’s very stressful – no boba means no sales,” said Beyon Store, owner of Tea Hut, a store with three locations in the Bay Area. “If you don’t have Boba, they don’t want tea.” They just left. “

Mr. Qian, 32, said that two of his suppliers had already sold out, and the remaining two were reducing the amount of tapioca they bought each week. If he doesn’t get too much booby soon, Mr. Qian said, his stores will be out within two weeks.

Despite the epidemic, Mr. Qian said, there was an upsurge in business, as drinking boba was one of the few avenues for “cheap fun”, with other entertainment venues closed. Now, he may have to temporarily lay off and lay off employees.

Honey Tran co-owner Brian Tran in San Francisco said he was also keenly searching for more tapioca. He hopes that if he cannot compensate for his supply, he will run out by the end of next week.

“To sell a bob car without a bob shop is like a car dealership without cars,” Mr Tran said. “It’s like a steakhouse without steak.”

Boba Guys is one of the most successful Bob Chen in the country Instagram posts This month that some Boba shops had already run out of tapioca balls and others will be up in the next few weeks. Boss of boba friends US Boba Company also operates, Which produces and sells tapioca pearls in other stores across the country.

Boba Kami, who was First reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Is Boba fans in a panic. A post sharing news in the Facebook group Subel Asian Traits, a gathering place for Asians around the world, attracts 10,000 comments and messages of disappointment and sadness.

Boba “is something that translates to a lot of Asian cultures,” said Joey Emanzah, a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and an administrator of the micro-Asian traits group. “Something very simple can bring people together.”

Ms. Yuen, 21, receives Boba once or twice a week and sells Boba stickers online. She said she grew up with her parents by visiting a Boba shop near her home in South San Francisco, and now considers Boba a great way to reunite with friends.

“Many of my Asian-American friends will bond more with Boba,” said Ms. Yuen, whose family is from Hong Kong. “Hong Kong has very good milk tea. It brings us back to our roots in a sense. “

Boba is not just a California treatment, however, and there are reports of scarcity around the United States.

Khoa Wu, 28-year-old Ph.D. The University of Minnesota student said he drinks Boba two or three times a week – drinking peach tea with Boba is his order. He was breaking the news of the lack of his 4-year-old daughter.

“After working with dinner it is a matter of weekends; I tell my child, “If you eat well, I’ll take you to Boba’s shop,” “Mr. Wu said. “This is going to be a shock to him.”

All hope is not lost for the Boba fanatics. Carly Oland, an office manager at the small bob supplier IBEV, such as iBEV LLC, which sells about 100 stores, said the company had prepared for shipping delays and stocked enough tapioca to get through it.

And Sharetea, a Boba chain with dozens of stores in 20 states, said it was not experiencing a shortage.

For those boba drinkers who are affected by the deficiency, this could be a chance to try different toppings in their tea, such as Cheese foam, Fruit jelly or egg pudding.

“Maybe I’ll try to take a break from tapioca to relieve that pressure,” Ms Yuen said.

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