Jul 15, 2022 - Economy

America runs on... boba drinks

A scoop of boba. Photo: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

American caffeine lovers are learning to imbibe their coffee with a little something extra.

Driving the news: This week, Bon Appétit published an exegesis about the “bobafication” of coffee, which has its roots in Asia’s popular bubble tea culture.

  • The magazine exhorted the trend of adding foams, purees and textures as “the best thing to happen to [the U.S.] nonalcoholic drink scene in decades.”

Why it matters: The U.S. is a dominant player in a global coffee market that’s estimated at over $100 billion. Bubble tea sales are projected to top $3 billion by 2027, according to Fortune Business Insights, especially with big brands like Starbucks and Peet's jumping on the bandwagon.

Yes but: U.S. companies tapping into a rich cultural vein can also spark accusations of appropriation. Back in 2017, the New York Times discovered this to their lament, after an article highlighting the rise of boba culture in the U.S. drew fierce backlash for being insensitive.

Thought bubble: I’m a huge coffee drinker that hasn’t quite developed the appreciation for what my colleague Hope King describes as the “acquired taste” of chewy tapioca balls in real bubble teas. That said, I do love Starbucks’ Brown Sugar Espresso, one of its several takes on boba-inspired drinks.

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