A national boba shortage is set to hit the US soon

First Little Moons, now this?

by Jenna Mahale
15 April 2021, 1:17pm

Screenshot via @foodwithmichel

As we all know, boba/bubble tea is one of life’s great pleasures. So you can imagine how upsetting it is to hear that a tapioca shortage -- thanks to a massive shipping backlog -- is set to cause a national boba crisis that could last for months, wreaking havoc on our lives, obviously. On TikTok, #boba boasts around 2.9 billion views, which could explain the snaking queues of masked teens seen outside bubble tea shops everywhere at the moment. But it seems the boba bubble is about to burst (sorry). 

“In the next week or so, tapioca will be a luxury because no one is going to have it,” said Tommy Huang, a senior sales manager at Leadway International Inc. (a California-based boba supplier) in a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s going to take a long time to be able to say we will not have a shortage of tapioca.”

Because the supplies of tapioca pearls, popping bobas, flavoured powders and syrups -- that all go into making bubble tea the addictive elixir we know it as -- are all imported almost exclusively from Asia, the boba business is especially vulnerable to shipping delays. In fact, according to a post by popular bicoastal bubble tea chain Boba Guys, 99% of the world’s boba comes from Asia, primarily Taiwan.

In the video, posted to Instagram last week, the owners of the US drinks company Boba Co. have said that the delays are likely to affect supplies for at least a few months. Shipping ingredients internationally -- a usually month-long process that includes crossing the Pacific, clearing customs and leaving the docks -- is now taking around four to five months instead. “This is an industry-wide shortage,” they explained, “Some boba shops are already out. Others will run out in the next few weeks.”

The most important thing is that everyone keeps their cool in this admittedly very trying time. “If you see [shops] run out of boba, don’t get mad. It’s not their fault,” they said. “Everyone is trying the hardest as they can.” We’ll get through this guys, maybe let’s collectively switch back to drinking Dalgona coffee or making that feta pasta that seemed to cause a global shortage in feta instead.

Follow i-D on Instagram and TikTok for more news

Social Media