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Boba Increases in Popularity

May 8, 2022

After appeasing her sweet tooth and purchasing boba three times a week for weeks, Sanjana Prabhakar, senior, was banned from the drink by her parents. 

“It’s because I’m obsessed,” Prabhakar said. “It’s very unique compared to other drinks and is much sweeter.”

Prabhakar said her boba obsession prompted her parents to take away her credit card privileges if she bought boba one more time. To solve the problem, she began to pay for the boba herself and now frequents the restaurant Honey Bee Tea in the Lafayette Center in Manchester for their Okinawa flavor. 

Boba, formally known as bubble tea, is a Taiwanese cold drink made with sweetened milk and tapioca pearls. 

Like Prabhakar, teens all over the world are partaking in a boba craze, contributing to an overall 7.5 percent growth in the bubble tea market. The market is expected to reach $4.3 billion by 2027 from $2.4 billion in 2019. 

“I think the rise in boba is great,” Prabhakar said. “It’s always nice to try new things and have a variety of foods in your palate.”

As a Taiwanese-American, Emily Lory, senior, said she is proud to see a part of her heritage in America. 

Lory’s first time drinking boba was in Taiwan at 5 which she said was a nostalgic memory for her. Although Lory has been unable to visit Taiwan for the past 13 years, she said drinking boba brings back memories of her family and Taiwanese culture. 

“It’s nice to see that part of my culture, and it is like a reminder of my Taiwanese family,” Lory said.

While she said certain boba shops in America incorporate elements of Taiwanese or Asian culture into their store fronts, the presentation of the boba and in the descriptions of the drinks, the vast majority of boba shops are different from those in Taiwan.

Art by Mason Kellerman & Emma Tyulyayev

“I think there’s a level of authenticity you lose when you come to America with the growing popularity, but I wouldn’t consider it cultural appropriation,” Lory said.

In the summer of her junior year, Lory began working at Hitea, a boba shop located on Olive Boulevard in Chesterfield, and witnessed the rise in popularity first hand with the majority of customers being teenagers. 

As she worked there, Lory said she began to notice the store remain popular with a diverse crowd.

“It was cool to see all the people appreciating the culture, even though they were all different cultures,” Lory said.

Chris Ikemeyer, boba-rista at the Bubblecup Tea Zone inside the Pan-Asian Supermarket on Manchester Road in Manchester, attributes the popularity of boba to its versatility. 

“It’s like your own little creative playground since boba can be added into any drink,” Ikemeyer said. “There’s also so many different types of boba like popping boba, crystal boba, assorted jellies. The world is basically your oyster.”

Ikemeyer said she recommends the bubble milk tea to those who have never tried boba before because it is the most popular flavor. 

“I think it’s a nice sweet drink to have, especially since it’s getting warmer,” Ikemeyer said.

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