Bubble Tea Shortage in the U.S. Could Last Months Due to International Shipping Delays

Boba shops around the nation are experiencing shortages as there are shipping delays on boba balls and tapioca starch coming from overseas

bubble tea
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Bubble tea is the latest product to fall victim to the pandemic-related food shortages.

The tea-based drink filled with chewy tapioca pearls, also known as boba, has become scarce around the U.S. as major shipping issues overseas are preventing deliveries of boba balls and tapioca starch, The San Fransisco Chronicle reported.

Many boba shops order their boba balls from Taiwan, and tapioca starch, which is used to make the balls, from Thailand. As the shipping delays are creating a shortage of these products, boba shop owners are warning that it could take months to return to a stable supply.

The owners of Boba Co., who also run the popular Boba Guys stores across the country, explained the ongoing issue on Instagram last week, noting that this is an "industry-wide shortage."

"Some boba shops are already out. Others will run out in the next few weeks. 99% of boba comes from overseas. It will be in flux for several months until we get our next series of tapioca starch shipments," the owners said.

The Boba Guys said that the shortage is expected to last months, as a shipment that usually takes a month to arrive in the U.S. is now taking four to five months.

"If you see [shops] run out of boba, don't get mad. It's not their fault. Everyone is trying the hardest as they can," they added.

Other companies predict that the shortage may last even longer. Mai Shi, a representative from bubble tea chain Kung Fu Tea, told USA Today that the shortage could get worse in the summer.

"We have warehouses on both East and West Coast, so our shortage compared to other boba brands is way less significant," Shi said. "However, we definitely see a trend that the demand for the entire bubble tea category is ever increasing as people want fresh, made-to-order drinks."

The chain is also expecting to experience shortages of ingredients like coconut powder and taro.

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