- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2000

ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES
Chai latte is so five minutes ago compared with this drink.
Zen-conscious Southern California the first to adopt lifestyle trends like feng shui and meditation now is welcoming another Asian fad: bubble tea.
Also known as boba milk tea or tapioca milk tea, the drink is showing up at tea shops across Los Angeles and Orange counties, with similar success in San Francisco, New York and elsewhere. Its backers think they may have stumbled onto a fun-to-drink alternative to coffee.
A popular import from Taiwan, the frothy beverage is a mix of tea, milk, sugar and giant black tapioca balls served hot or cold. The gummy rounds, about the size of small marbles, are sucked up, with a little effort, through an extra-wide straw.
"I love the boba," said Pamela Faulkner of Venice, whose 13-year-old son introduced her to the drink several months ago.
"My son loves it so much I have to bring him after school every day. It's the only way to get him to do his homework," she said.
Salesman David Tan said he and his co-workers go out for boba about four times a week. "It's something you crave when you're thirsty."
The craze began in Taiwan during the early '90s and made its way throughout Asia. The United States was the next stop, with tea shops debuting the drink in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Seattle and New York.
"You can see more and more stores opening in the Bay Area," said Andy Jiang, manager at the Sweet House, which specializes in tapioca milk tea. He opened a second San Francisco store this year, but competition is fierce, with three tapioca milk tea shops on the same street.
Vendors hope to market it as a relatively healthful alternative to soft drinks or coffee.
"Everybody is talking about natural and health food. Well, tea is a natural plant and it's proven to lower health risks," said Jimmy Huang, who envisions opening between 50 and 100 tea shops in the United States over the next 10 years.
His family already operates more than 100 tea shops in Japan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Canada and Australia.
But boba isn't for everyone, Mr. Huang said.
"It's 50-50. If they try it and like it, they will love it. The others think it's strange why do you have to eat something when you drink?" Mr. Huang said.
Other entrepreneurs are more optimistic, particularly in Southern California, home to one of the nation's largest Asian-American communities.
"I think people are looking for something else than Starbucks," said Relaxtation manager Alex Mojovic.

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