Boba Shortage Casts Calamity onto Californians


Courtesy of Villages of Irvine

A quick Google search for “Boba in Irvine” on Google shows that there are 20 shops in Irvine alone. To such entities, the boba shortage poses risk of bankruptcy or unemployment; for many, carrying boba is a factor that pulls customers in.

By Ava Caleca, Erin Choi, and Krisha Konchadi

Food and drink lovers are expressing concerns for a rapidly-spreading boba shortage. Shipments of tapioca to the West Coast drastically decreased in number, going from 40 to just 19 in a matter of two months, according to the New York Times.

News about the shortage emerged mid-April when tapioca, the main ingredient of boba, reached supply levels of an all-time low. The combination of employee shortages and piles of ingredients such as tapioca scratch and the boba balls being left unattended in east and west coast ports caused a traffic jam, according to the New York Times.

Businesses have lost revenue due to the heavy amounts of ingredients being left at the ports for long periods of time. The shortage may last until the summer, leaving many boba shops in the country with concerns over business, according to NPR.

“My family has sent pictures of places in different areas that have signs that say, ‘There’s a boba shortage, and it’s real. You can’t get any boba here,’” owner of boba review account (@sof.and.boba) and sophomore Sofie Tran said. “I also saw a TikTok about the boba shortage and how shops are only giving one scoop [of boba] per person — it’s crazy.”

Repercussions of the shortage already hit the Bay Area, according to ABC News.

“This is an industry-wide shortage,” the Boba Guys wrote in a post on their official Instagram. “Some boba shops are already out. Others will run out in the next few weeks. 99% of boba comes from overseas.”

Redstraw employee and senior Carmen Yang was recently informed about the boba shortage.

“‘Boba will be out of stock until further notice due to the delayed shipment at California ports’ — That’s what they said, just a text to group chat,” Yang said. “I think we’re just going to sell other toppings like lychee jelly or agar boba.”

Although toppings such as jellies, puddings and popping pearls are popular to mix into the drinks, tapioca pearls such as boba are the most popular.

In the beginning of the pandemic, people were running out of toilet paper, but now people are taking boba away in person for their drinks.”

— Sofie Tran

“I would be sad because boba is really the only topping I ever get,” Tran said. “In the beginning of the pandemic, people were running out of toilet paper, but now people are taking boba away in person for their drinks.”

This story was originally published on Portola Pilot on May 5, 2021.