If there’s one thing Gen Z is obsessed with, it’s bubble tea. Nearly anyone who lives in an area with a high proportion of teenagers can confirm they’ve witnessed an increase in bubble tea stores, and don’t even get me started on college campuses. (My school has at least 6 bubble tea restaurants within a 10 minute walk, and those are just the ones off the top of my head!) But just because boba might be a new trend doesn’t mean it can’t be sustainable, and it doesn’t mean we can’t demand that our favorite brands do better.
When you order a small bubble tea drink, it’s hard to imagine the impact you’re having on the environment. After all, it’s just one drink, right? And it is, but when everyone buys “just one drink,” and plenty of people go as frequently as once a week or more, those drinks start to add up.
Chatime is one of the leading brands of bubble tea, but are also leading the way in creating industry norms that disregard the environment. We need to stop this now. Most of the ingredients are not sourced sustainably: increased demands for tapioca lead to deforestation and is a water-intensive ingredient to produce; 80% of their sales use dairy milk, and they charge for their more sustainable oat milk option; and their fructose is produced by corn that takes pesticides and fertilizers that lead to run-off and harm ecosystems. Their one saving grace is using loose-leaf tea rather than tea bags, which is less carbon intensive.
And then there’s the plastic, which anyone whose ever ordered a bubble tea can recognize. What I was shocked to learn, however, was that plenty of their stores don’t even have separate trash and recycling bins. At this point, Chatime can’t just claim they’re looking for the cheapest way to keep up with demand. They’re a huge brand; investing in recycling bins is a bare minimum.
The demand for bubble tea doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, which is why it is imperative that brands like Chatime lead the way in creating a sustainable product. Because let’s face it: their target demographic are Gen Z, and we want to save the planet just as much we crave boba.