Sorry to burst your boba: Bubble tea supplies running low in Canada

Published 2021-04-21 17:12

Twitter users react to the taro-ble news


Bubble tea fans, hold onto your straws. A supply shortage means your favourite beverage just got harder to find.

For those unfamiliar, bubble tea is a tea-based beverage, often shaken over ice with boba, which are chewy balls of tapioca that are super fun to slurp up and chow down.

Currently, bubble tea shops in Canada are having a hard time getting boba due to ongoing shipping problems related to the pandemic and a recent blockage in a major shipping route called the Suez Canal.

This is bad news for bubble tea business owners around Canada as warmer weather approaches and demand for the thirst-quencher rises.

What’s causing the bubble trouble?

Shipping delays have been common for all kinds of products since the beginning of the pandemic, due to restrictions that make manufacturing and transportation more difficult.

But the real stumbling block came last month, when a ship ran aground in the Suez Canal and created a week-long traffic jam in one of the world's most vital waterways.

This satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, on March 28. (Image credit: Maxar Technologies/The Associated Press)

You see, most Canadian wholesalers get their boba and other bubble tea supplies from Asia, particularly from Taiwan.

Greg Tieu of Bubble Tea Canada, which provides wholesale supplies to companies in Alberta, Quebec and Ontario, said the obstruction of the Suez Canal gummed up the flow of essential ingredients to Canadian stores.

See those little black circles at the bottom of the drink? Those are boba. The chewy pearls of tapioca are made from the starch of cassava, a type of root like ginger. They’re chewy and sweet. (Image credit: CBC)

“That stop in the supply chain can hit stores very hard,” said Tieu.

He said that the shortages have been going on for at least two weeks and affect not only boba, but also flavoured syrups and disposable cups, he added.

Tieu said that it could take months for suppliers to catch up.

It could also mean your next bubble tea is a bit more expensive than usual.

“The cost of that [delay] is being passed onto shops and consumers,” Tieu said.

Delay delirium

The shortages have caused some on social media to get a little antsy about their favourite drink. 

Some are coping with straw puns.

Tweet reads the boba shortage is literally the last straw for me

Others are like, “Not boba. Anything but boba.”

Tweet reads no toiler paper? fine. No hand sanitizer? OK. No boba? Flips table.

And some are considering moving to Taiwan, where the drink originates.

For now, they’ll have to settle with good ol’ H2O and plenty of deep breathing.

With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press


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