Talk Boba

My Journey with Sustainable Boba

This is an article written from one of our awesome boba lovers!

So… you’ve probably heard something about climate change (or, the more loaded phrase, global warming). Clearly, the current human lifestyle is not sustainable. The biggest culprit? Fossil fuels.

Especially here in Northern California (where I’m from), more and more people are switching to hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars, and, in larger cities, public transport. These “cleaner” methods of transportation decrease our environmental footprint, but there’s another offender in our midst. Single use plastics!

Single Use Plastics

As many of us know, most plastics are made from oil. And most of us are aware that the bubble tea industry is a producer of waste from single use plastics. But, we don’t have to stop drinking boba to limit our impact!

While the characteristics of the clear plastic cup and the colorful plastic straw that seem essential to the boba-drinking experience (you know what i’m talking about), we don’t have much longer with them. So, how can we still enjoy our favorite drink without killing the planet?

Reusable Straws

These are becoming increasingly popular and easier to find (contrary to when I first started searching for one). I wanted one that I could also use for boba, so I bought the first one that I found in person – it was $2 from the OneZo in Monterey Park (they have great boba, by the way!).

My Journey with Sustainable Boba

I will admit, mine is definitely not the most exciting or attractive straw, but hey, it works!

However, they do make them in many different colors – I’ve even seen holo metal straws. Though the most common type I have seen is metal, I know that glass straws are also available, in case you aren’t too big of a fan of the metal taste, though I haven’t really experienced any of that with my straw. Some places even sell them in sets, with different types of straws (small/large, etc) or with a cleaning brush and case.

I would definitely recommend getting the cleaning brushes that are specially made for these boba straws – it makes cleaning much easier! After struggling with trying to clean the straw with my fingers and just running water and soap through the straw, I got my cleaning brush from Tempo Tea Bar in Glasgow, Scotland, for 1 pound (if I remember correctly). However, I’ve also seen plenty for sale around California, though I didn’t note the prices. They are usually pretty inexpensive, though, and well worth the dollar or two or three.

My Journey with Sustainable Boba
Tempo Tea Bar

Here’s a list of other straws in case you want to purchase some for yourself.

These of course are not the only ones. Certain companies, such as Green Turtle Co., are dedicated to selling only reusable boba straws. And of course Amazon is basically limitless. There are plenty more variations and sets so that you can find the reusable boba straw that is perfectly meant for you!

Plastic Cup Alternatives

This can come down to the shop itself.

In sit-down restaurants, such as my favorite local pho place, the boba drinks usually already come in a glass. However, this is less common in actual boba shops, even though, in some cases, the customers do stay and hang out in the shop for a few hours – long enough to finish consuming their drinks.

Glass Cups

At Tea Bar in Portland, Oregon, they actually served their for-here drinks in glass mason jars, which I found really unique. I would love to see more boba places hopping on this in-house glass train!

My Journey with Sustainable Boba
Tea Bar w/ Family

Other places, such as Tea Brick in Monterey Park, California, serve their drinks in collectible, reusable hard plastic jars. Though not quite as sustainable as keeping the same glass cups in use for several years, my former boba cups have lived second lives as candy jars, coin collectors, and pencil/pen jars.

My Journey with Sustainable Boba
Fall 2017 Cup from Tea Brick

At Tea Brick, the sturdier cup comes at no additional cost; however, at places such as E-Tea in Northern California, they sell it for an extra dollar or so on your first drink, then whenever you bring it back, you get a discount. I’ve only been to E-Tea once, but if anybody has the more specific details, please don’t be shy.

I’m sure there are other places that also practice these more green cup alternatives, so feel free to list your favorites in the comments below!

Bring Your Own Cup

And finally, you can always try to bring in your own container. Places like Starbucks will take your cup and fill it up, so why shouldn’t boba shops?

While I personally have never tried to bring in my own container for boba tea drinks, companies such as Bumbler are completely dedicated to reusable boba tumblers. It also states on the site that as long as you hold on to your lid and straw, any eco-conscious business will fill your reusable container up. And, of course, this probably does not only apply to specific boba tumblers – you can also try with a reusable canteen or your own mason jar. Something to think about for next time!

Read some other great articles from Talk Boba!

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