Art & Culture - 10/11/18

Boba Tea Bubbles Up in Hong Kong

Written by Christy C

A phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing, Boba Tea’s distinctive pearls are a staple in Hong Kong. We sat down with Xing Fu Tang’s Issac Yu to discuss why these bubbly beverages have taken the world by storm.

Boba tea – or bubble tea – has been an inescapable image both in real life and on social media across Asia for a while now. And, thanks to ever more imaginative iterations, its huge popularity and ever-increasing number of queue-forming outlets show no sign of slowing. One new boba brand on the block is Xing Fu Tang – specialists in the current flavour of choice, brown sugar boba milk. Hailing from Taiwan, the milk tea mothership, Xing Fu Tang burst onto Hong Kong’s already crowded bubble tea market in August with their tiger-striped boba beverage. We caught up with Xing Fu Tang’s Hong Kong owner Issac Yu at the Hive Central to learn more about their sweet invention and the reasons behind this lucrative boba craze.

Boba Tea/Bubble Tea in Hong Kong

In case it hasn’t already crossed your path, brown sugar boba milk is a concoction of fresh milk and chewy tapioca balls which are first soaked and then simmered for hours in natural brown sugar. The sugar infuses the warm bed of pearls with a rich caramel flavor, creating a thick creamy texture when blended with cold milk and giving this drink its distinctive taste and texture. “It’s our store signature. We’re selling an average 1500 cups of this every day,” says Issac, who opened his franchise outlet of the Taiwanese original a few months ago and already has plans of five to ten more.

Boba Tea/Bubble Tea in Hong Kong

“Hong Kong has always had an insatiable appetite for boba,” he explains. Now in his late twenties, the Hong Kong native grew up around boba tea and has seen the market develop. “10 years ago, Hong Kong customers just wanted a simple cup of boba tea, but now, the new generation of boba fans are looking for something that is healthier, but also with visual value.” It’s this he sees as his brown sugar boba beverage’s unique selling point. “It’s deemed healthier than the traditional boba tea that’s made from fat-loaded milk powder,” Issac explains. In addition, its hype also comes from it being photogenic. Take a look at foodie Instagram feeds, and you can find pictures of the eye-catching tiger-striped pattern formed by the beverage’s brown sugar glaze all over the grid.

Boba Tea/Bubble Tea in Hong Kong

Issac predicts there will only be more boba inventions in the future. “It’s said that the market is oversaturated, but I think there’s still a lot of room for development. The demand is always here, businesses will look for ways to innovate their recipes to entice new customers and strengthen their current clientele base. The variety of boba beverages will only grow more diverse.” So raise your glass to the bubbles – the prediction is they’re here to stay.

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