Written By: Zach Champ
Photographs Featuring: SmokingSection & Colton Williams
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Sometimes I get really weird food cravings. Usually it’s for snacks and candy, but I also love trying exotic new desserts and drinks.
Recently I was bumbling around downtown when I was struck with my typical urge to buy a drink or snack from the convenience store.
This time though I wanted something different… but what was I supposed to choose? It was late in the evening and most shops and restaurants were closing, and I just wanted to purchase something quick and easy.
I stood in front of Hyperion coffee and fumbled for a minute debating whether I needed to just settle for an iced coffee instead, when I saw this neon sign across the street from me.
It flashed brightly with the words OPEN and was next to a brightly painted yellow doorway.
I popped over and realized it was a sign for a new business… BUBBLE BEE… so inside I went!
Little did I know what lay in wait for me…
WHAT IS BUBBLE TEA?
Bubble tea is a delicious, sweet and sugary tea-based drink that features tiny bite-sized tapioca balls called boba.
Typically, the boba is drunk through a large straw and can be chewed, which is truly a unique and different experience for cold drinks.
The closest comparison I could make to bubble tea would be beverages such as coconut water that include the fruit pulp.
Sometimes I feel like an alien or bug when I drink the boba through the large straw, as if it were some sort of plastic proboscis protruding from my mouth while I suck each boba up one by one…
Yep, bubble tea is weird like that, but that strangeness is part of the appeal of the drink!
Bubble tea is usually made by combining milk, green tea, and fruit juices with the boba for a unique flavor and textural experience.
There are numerous variations of bubble tea available, ranging from the aforementioned traditional milk and tea styled drinks to milkshake and smoothie based drinks using fresh fruit. All bubble tea drinks feature boba.
The beverage originated in Taiwan around the 1980s and has gained popularity across the rest of East Asia over recent years.
Bubble Tea is a perfect drink for hot summer days or for when you're craving a sweet snack!
WHY IS BUBBLE TEA SO POPULAR RIGHT NOW?
Despite the peculiar and bizarre nature of bubble tea, it is consistently growing in popularity!
Even here in my hometown of Fredericksburg, there are multiple shops popping up everywhere in town where you can try it. I also know from personal experience that there are MANY bubble tea shops in Northern Virginia as well!
Just do a quick Google search for ‘bubble tea near me’ and you will see that there are dozens of options to choose from… it’s actually quite surprising for such a new and niche drink.
Just why is bubble tea so popular right now? There are several reasons.
Social-media has played a prominent role in the resurgence of bubble tea’s popularity, specifically because of trending TikTok videos by young adults in the Generation Z demographic which showcase unique recipes and variations of the drink.
Bubble tea isn’t just seeing a popular emergence in the United States, it’s also gaining interest in Europe and Australia as well. It is estimated that the worldwide market for bubble tea is currently around $2 billion dollars and projected to keep growing!
WHAT DOES BUBBLE TEA SYMBOLICALLY REPRESENT FOR FXBG?
Why are Bubble Tea shops popping up everywhere? The growth in popularity of Bubble Tea is parallel with the growth of the East-Asian community abroad and the continued cultural diversification of America.
Over recent years here in Virginia (specifically Northern Virginia) we have seen more Asian representation within the community, and this is characterized by the development of new Asian themed restaurants and businesses.
Middle-class Americans love trying new things. That's why American pop culture centers on the idea of "what's trending next". This is especially true with food and cuisine, and many items have become popular due to events occurring on social-media and television.
A great example of this is how the general American public over the past few decades has become fascinated with oriental culture and cuisine… The same reason that Americans love anime/manga and order takeout Chinese food is the same reason everybody is currently drawn to bubble tea.
It is possible that bubble tea is solidifying its role in American cuisine as a new popular dessert drink, comparable to how tacos have become a mainstream part of everyone’s lunch or dinner despite originally being a Hispanic and indigenous food.
Or not! It is just as likely that bubble tea is just a fad and will eventually wane in popularity and disappear from stores and the consumer’s consciousness.
Only time can tell, but in the meantime if you are looking for a unique exotic refreshing and sweet drink then go try a bubble tea at your local shop today!