How is it that I haven’t done an episode about bubble tea? It’s surprising that of all the things related to Taiwan, that I’ve covered on this podcast, I haven’t covered this one.
Last year I heard that April 30th was National Bubble Tea Day when I saw a tweet by President Tsai Ing-wen. So I got to work planning to release an episode about bubble tea for this year’s April 30th.
I started off speaking to New York-based bubble tea shop veteran Sam Lin who brought the Quickly bubble tea brand from Taiwan to New York. His first Quickly shop was in Flushing near the public library on Kissena. Now he runs 22 Coco bubble tea shops in New York, New Jersey and Boston. Sam’s mother is a street vendor in Taiwan selling douhua (a sweet dessert tofu) and Sam grew up eating douhua with tapioca balls long before there was this thing called bubble tea. Sam had some interesting things to say about the origins of bubble tea and who invented it.
As I was getting this episode ready for the end of April, I also spoke to Borcheng Hsu, organizer of the Bubble Tea Festival in New York, who clarified the origins of National Bubble Day.
And finally, I came across a YouTube channel called Bubble Tea Kristin. It’s an amazing resource for almost everything related to bubble tea. Kristin has recipes for those wanting to make bubble tea drinks at home. In the past she’s owned and run several bubble tea shops and what she does now is help people who dream of opening their own bubble tea shop. I wanted to find out why she’s been called the “Boba Queen,” so I looked her up and invited her to be a guest on Talking Taiwan.
This episode of Talking Taiwan has been sponsored by NATWA, the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association.
NATWA was founded in 1988, and its mission is:
- to evoke a sense of self-esteem and enhance women’s dignity,
- to oppose gender discrimination and promote gender equality,
- to fully develop women’s potential and encourage their participation in public affairs,
- to contribute to the advancement of human rights and democratic development in Taiwan,
- to reach out and work with women’s organizations worldwide to promote peace for all.
To learn more about NATWA visit their website: www.natwa.com
Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:
- The origins of bubble tea and who invented it
- Why National Bubble Tea Day is on April 30th
- What should New York City celebrate as bubble tea day
- Kristin the “Boba Queen”
- Where Kristin’s love and interest in bubble tea comes from
- How she learned about the bubble tea business and opened her own bubble tea shops
- How she sold her bubble tea business at the beginning of the pandemic and now mentors and helps other people to open bubble tea shops
- How her past experiences and childhood prepared her for being an entrepreneur and business owner
- How it’s difficult to be profitable in the first year of running a bubble tea shop
- What it takes to have a successful bubble tea shop
- How to get the right texture for the tapioca pearls in bubble tea
- The different types of tapioca pearl balls and toppings
- How long tapioca pearls last after they are cooked
- Kristin’s visit to Taiwan in 2018
- How bubble tea shops are popping up all around the world
- The different flavors of bubble tea that Kristin created for her shops
- How bubble tea has evolved over the years since Kristin opened her first bubble tea shop
- The reactions from people that Kristin has gotten since she is not from Taiwan or Asia
- How she was once the only white female bubble tea shop owner in the U.K.
- Any backlash she’s experienced as a bubble tea shop owner
- How Kristin works with her bubble tea shop clients and advises them
- Her recommendations of what to do in the first year of running a bubble tea shop
- How the approach of business owners in the U.S. differs from those in the U.K.
- How the pricing of bubble tea is important
- How Kristin has helped bubble tea shop owners who have already started their business but run into some problems and need help
- How Kristin sees her role in the world of bubble tea
- What Kristin misses about running a tea shop
- A drink recipe that people can make at home
President Tsai Ing-wen’s tweet about National Bubble Tea Day in 2022
FAQs about National Bubble Tea Day: https://nationaltoday.com/national-bubble-tea-day/#faqs
Bubble Tea Purveyors Continue to Grow Along With Drink’s Popularity (an article from the New York Times that originally had the headline — “The Blobs in Your Tea? They’re Supposed to Be There”): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/business/smallbusiness/bubble-tea.html
Our Readers Call Us Out Over Bubble Tea. They Are Right. (an article from the New York Times): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/reader-center/our-readers-call-us-out-over-bubble-tea-they-are-right.html
Times Revises Controversial Bubble Tea Story After Reader Outcry [Updated]: https://ny.eater.com/2017/8/17/16162202/bubble-tea-new-york-times
New York Times Responds to Backlash Over Clueless Bubble-Tea Article: https://www.grubstreet.com/2017/08/new-york-times-bubble-tea-article-backlash.html
The rise of bubble tea, one of Taiwan’s most beloved beverages (an article from CNN): https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/taiwan-bubble-tea-origins/
Chun Shui Tang (tea shop in Taichung, Taiwan): https://chunshuitang.com.tw/
Hanlin (tea shop in Tainan, Taiwan): http://www.hanlin-tea.com.tw/
Bubble Tea Kristin’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/BubbleTeaKristin
Kristin’s website: https://www.bubbleteaexpert.com/
Bubble Tea Kristin on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/BubbleTeaKristin/
Ube Cloud ~ Fluffy Milky Bubble Tea ~ Purple Yam (recipe video): https://youtu.be/uUsfc8XvLdQ
Walling powder: https://bobaempire.en.taiwantrade.com/product/2084965
Google Doodle celebrates Bubble Tea: https://observervoice.com/google-doodle-celebrates-bubble-tea-13390/
Make your own bubble tea with the Google Doodle: https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-bubble-tea
Borcheng Hsu on the 13th Passport to Taiwan Festival (Episode 45): https://talkingtaiwan.com/tt045-borcheng-hsu/