Charlie Wu: BobaGrizz fans need to know the Taiwanese origins of bubble tea

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      By Charlie Wu

      I was driving the other day and heard on the radio about this “BobaGrizz” hoodie getting so much attention. It’s nice to see iconic cultural assets coming together to show how vibrant our diversity is in Vancouver.

      However, what I was told from the radio commentary surprised me. Bubble tea, also known as Boba, had just become a "Chinese" icon in Vancouver.

      I remember visiting the museum at the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ontario. There was a section of posters from Hollywood movies depicting all Indigenous people as the same ”Indians” and there were also totems on display in the museum.

      Both were misrepresenting the indigenous peoples in the region. Learning that not all Indigenous people have the culture of totems was my biggest takeaway that day.

      For the record, Boba originated in Taiwan in the late ’80s. It is known around the world as a Taiwanese drink. If you ask people around the world who love Boba, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, or Indonesia, most people would know its affiliation with Taiwan. 

      In 2019, one of the bubble tea franchises from Taiwan got into trouble with their stores in China. The head office was forced to publicly declare that their tea was from “Taiwan, China”. 

      Soon after, many other franchises had to do the same. Of course, the incident had many Taiwanese people feeling betrayed. Even their beloved bubble tea had to bow to China’s pressure.

      So what captured my attention in listening to the BobaGrizz news was the lack of cultural sensitivity when presenting cultures that aren’t necessarily our own. I am willing to believe that there isn’t any ill will for the creator of BobaGrizz or among the media reporting the story, but I think our society really needs to take this matter more seriously if we want to thrive with our diversity.

      What has happened in China doesn’t need to happen here in Canada! For those who actually collected the BobaGrizz hoodie, please know the origin of Boba—it is not a story that originated in China.

      Charlie Wu is managing director of the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association and a proud Taiwanese Canadian.