End of the Bubble Tea Era: Asians Look Beyond Boba

Tapioca Milk TeaLike all hip and cool Asian kids, I grew up going to boba tea houses for social gatherings and late-night snack runs. Starbucks never stood a fighting chance against Lollicup’s chilled honeydew milk tea.

Bubble tea came to the U.S. from Taiwan in the 80’s and slowly emerged to become one of the biggest cultural and lifestyle sensations in the API community. The “Cult of Boba” has been invincible for the past decade, but as I look around Chinatown in Houston, I can’t help but think… could we be approaching the end of an era?

Like all trends, boba will inevitably be replaced someday by the next best thing. Already in Asian communities across the nation, I’m seeing evidence of just that. Instead of heading to the tea house, kids nowadays are opting for even cooler and tastier treat-serving hangouts.

Here are my top 3 picks for Boba’s Most Menacing Challengers:

1) Fro-Yo! (Frozen Yogurt, Asian style) – Once dominated by the likes of TCBY, frozen yogurt recently got a HUGE make-over… by Koreans. The new version is more fresh, tart, and healthy, and features truly delectable fruit toppings. And the Asian influence is undeniable. You can tell from its selection of lychee & pomegranate toppings and mango & green tea flavors.

While vendors including LA-based Pinkberry have paved the way for fro-yo (garnering celebrity-style press coverage from big-name media) other promising branches like OrangeCup are blazing the trail for this trend, bringing the yummy yogurt to big cities in Texas.

2) Crepes – The first time I had a crepe was not in Paris, but at Crepe In The Grip in Alhambra, California. Who would have thought that some of America’s best creperies were in LA’s Asian hood?

What gives this snack potential is that these new Asian creperies aren’t just grab-and-go-one-stop-shops. They’re actual Saturday-night hangouts that provide free wireless connection, playing cards, and even board games so that people can chill, eat crepes, and hang out into the wee hours of the night. I smell a new lifestyle trend here…

3) Shaved Ice – A much, much more AWESOME version of the familiar convenient store Icee. For years, shaved ice has hid in boba’s shadows, but more and more, people are now giving respect to shaved ice (topped with condensed milk, red bean, and chunks of fresh fruit). And because portions are usually humongous, shaved ice makes for a great social/date snack. Just ask for extra spoons and share the love.


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About Sharon

Sharon blogs from Manhattan and is a Chinese-American marketing and PR professional. After working for several years throughout Asia and across the US, she has returned to life as a student and is currently in graduate school, blogging intermittently between classes and happy hour.
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