This iced bubble royal tea latte is one of the many options Sencha has to offer its patrons. One can also order it hot, or save the bubbles and simply order it as an iced tea latte.
Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald
Boba tea recently exploded in the United States, sparking a nationwide trend which even brought several boba tea shops to State Street, including Taiwan Little Eats, Kung Fu Tea, Le C’s, Tenko Tea and Sencha Tea Bar.
Boba tea, also known as bubble tea, was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s. Bubble tea can come in two forms, either with tapioca pearls or popping bubbles. The popping bubbles are filled with syrups of different flavors, typically fruit flavors. The tea can also be milk-based or fruit flavored.
The combination of different flavors of bubbles, pearls and tea results in a variety of flavor options, according to Goba Tea.
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As a traditionally Taiwanese tea, boba and other Asian foods bring a new cultural aspect to State Street, representing Asian University of Wisconsin students.
ArtsEtc. Editor Rachael Lee, an Asian-American student and former employee of Le C’s Patisserie and Tea House on state, commented on the cultural significance of these locations, saying “I remember a friend, upon seeing a Hong Kong styled pineapple bun there, recounted how she would eat those on the way to school every morning.”
Many cultural food options on State Street are authentic, which can remind international students of home. Authentic cultural food on State can also help businesses in Madison, presenting more food options to students and families who want to experience a new culture.
For many international students, living and going to school in another country can be very difficult. Having familiar food options nearby can alleviate some homesickness.
“Particularly for international students, I think that the store was a space to cultivate a little home away from home,” Lee said. “Customers can speak to the staff in Mandarin, which can be more comfortable and less daunting for those of whom English is a second language. There were familiar snacks and drinks from home.”
The availability of cultural foods is important for helping multicultural students — especially international students — feel at home in an unfamiliar city or country. 
UW has a large number of Asian-American and international Asian students, with over 1,200 initiatives dedicated to Southeast and other Asian students, according to UW’s diversity page. This affects the culture of State Street, as many students appreciate familiar foods and other products from their culture being readily available nearby.
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Bubble tea shops are also a space where those who are unfamiliar with Asian culture and cuisine can get an introduction, “We try to make a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their familiarity or comfort level with boba,” Lee said.
Boba is not a culturally exclusive drink — everyone is welcome to get a taste of authentic Asian culture at any of the several boba and other Asian locations on State Street.
Beyond State Street, the U.S. and other countries are also excited about bubble tea. Kung Fu Tea is another beloved bubble tea shop located on State Street and it is part of a larger chain, with hundreds of stores both domestically and globally.
According to their website, the founders were inspired to open Kung Fu Tea after they saw a lack of authentic bubble tea places in Flushings, Queens. They found an opportunity to share with their community authentic versions of the iconic Taiwanese drink, while also providing a space to cheer oneself up and socialize with others.
The brand quickly blew up into a national sensation, providing a new cultural experience to Americans and people in other nations. This is no different than in Madison, where Kung Fu Tea proves itself another popular study destination and hangout spot, with lines often running out the door and onto the sidewalk.
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The availability of bubble tea and the presence of Asian snacks and cuisine seems to be part of a larger phenomenon of Asian cultural influence on the landscape of State Street. From the opening of J&P Market offering affordable Asian groceries to an array of restaurants and cafes providing options from Nepalese to Taiwanese cuisine, State Street constantly offers new ways to experience and become involved in Asian culture.
Eating cultural food and exposing yourself to other cultures can often increase awareness of minority groups in America. Even if you are not Asian-American or an Asian international student, consider visiting a boba shop on State Street to support local business while having a refreshing, culturally rich drink.
This article was published Nov 4, 2021 at 10:00 am and last updated Oct 28, 2021 at 8:03 pm

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