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  • Writer's pictureAngela Chu

Suez Canal Blockage: Boba Tea

Exports and imports are crucial for the development and growth of the economy. Without it, economies around the world would diminish!

One of the most popular routes is the Suez Canal located in Egypt. About twelve percent of the global trade passes through this canal because it is the shortest distance between Asia and Europe. In addition, one million barrels of oil and eight percent of natural gas are transported through the Suez Canal. So what happens when a ship gets stuck and the canal is blocked off?

Back in March, a giant container ship, four hundred metres in length, became wedged between the two sides of the Suez Canal. This incident prevented other ships from passing through and severely disrupted the economy and international trade across the globe. Without a doubt, businesses all around the world were affected by this!

To try and find a way around the problem, some ships believed they could get the job done by going a different route. One of the most popular solutions was to go around the Cape of Good Hope. But with the solution, came a cost. Choosing to go this route would lengthen a trip from twenty-five and a half days to thirty-four days. This would cause significant delays in shipping. In the long term, this would cause shortages!


A primary example of shortages caused by the Suez Canal is the tapioca pearls used in a popular drink, bubble tea! For those who do not know, bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea or boba was said to have originated in Taiwan. Back in the ’80s, milk tea was a classic drink in Taiwan. Tapioca pearls and shaved ice was also a popular dessert at the time. One fateful day, someone decided to combine the three, and thus a worldwide creation was created!

The bubble tea craze has created hundreds, maybe thousands of bubble tea cafes! With these new cafes opening, the demand for tapioca pearls will increase! This means that there would be the need for more tapioca pearls but with the Suez Canal blockage, there would be more shortages and delays.

As mentioned, the bubble tea craze has taken over the world! The increase in demand for bubble tea has also increased the need for tapioca pearls. Most of the tapioca pearls are imported from Asia. This is why bubble tea cafes are especially affected by the Suez Canal blockage. With that said, some of these cafes haven’t been affected by the Suez Canal. How is this possible? Surely they need the same ingredients needed as other bubble tea cafes? How are they exempt from this shortage? The answer is rather simple. They do not rely on the import of tapioca pearls to make their drinks. Instead, they make their own tapioca pearls to use in their drinks. By making their own tapioca pearls, they save themselves from being one of the many bubble tea locations that suffer from tapioca pearl shortages.

So, what’s to learn from this Suez Canal blockage?

Surely, the lesson is different from different perspectives. For example, this could be the cue for some bubble tea cafes to start developing their own recipe for tapioca pearls so they don't have to risk another shortage. Alternatively, this could also be the cue to prevent another blockage and save the economy from another downfall. At the end of the day, it is important to learn from mistakes and adapt to the ever-changing world to achieve success.

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