Bubble Tea. (Tom McCorkle/Washington Post)

Bubble Tea. (Tom McCorkle/Washington Post)

No bubble tea this spring? Canada faces boba shortage amid shipping delays

Concern has arisen among bubble tea cafes and shops as demand for the drink grows with warmer weather

Canada is experiencing a shortage of tapioca pearls, or boba, used in bubble tea as shipping delays continue to affect the global supply chain.

Most Canadian wholesalers get bubble tea supplies from Asia, particularly from Taiwan, where the popular drink originated, said a Vancouver-based supplier of bubble tea products.

“Right now, the supply of popping boba and (tapioca) pearls are running really thin,” said Greg Tieu of Bubble Tea Canada, which provides wholesale supplies to companies in Alberta, Quebec and Ontario.

This is causing concern among bubble tea cafes and shops in Canada as demand for the drink grows with warmer weather, Tieu said.

Bubble tea, a Taiwanese tea-based drink, commonly features chewy pearls of tapioca or boba, which are made from the starch of cassava.

Tieu said the shortage is caused by the pandemic, coupled with the obstruction of the Suez Canal last month after a container ship blocked the trade route.

“The cost of that (delay) is being passed onto shops and consumers,” he said, noting that the backlog has caused some wholesale prices to go up.

“That stop in the supply chain can hit stores very hard, whether they’ll have supplies or not.”

The delays are not only affecting the supply of tapioca pearls, popping boba and flavoured syrups but also items such as disposable cups, he added.

The shortage has been going on for at least two weeks and could take months to catch up, he said.

“We’re hoping the backlog would catch up,” said Tieu, adding that the business has started to limit purchase quantities.

AB Distribution, a Canada-wide bubble tea products distributor based in Calgary, said it is also experiencing a shortage tied to delays.

Some shipments that should have arrived in March are only arriving this week, said Carol Tang, AB Distribution’s sales manager.

“There’s definitely a lot of unpredictable factors. Shipments can be cancelled, containers can be cancelled, even when we already have them scheduled,” she said.

Tang said this can cause a lot of stress for businesses.

“We’re hoping that once we get through this jam, the remaining arrivals will continue to arrive,” she said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Food

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interfor’s Castlegar mill is getting $35 million in upgrades. Photo by: John Boivin
Interfor to invest $35 million at Castlegar mill

Project will enhance productivity and competitiveness

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Paul Chung is working as an early childhood educator at Cornerstone Children’s Centre in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Immigration pilot targets hard-to-fill jobs in West Kootenay

Program helps newcomers get permanent residency status in rural areas

Four homes in Johnson Flats were at serious risk of falling into a neighbourhood section of the Kettle River, according to capital project manager Justin Dinsdale. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks shields riverside homes against erosion

Crews have built a modified dike along a section of the Kettle River in Johnson Flats

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Most Read