Bubble tea robots have arrived, but customers may not be ready for them
Taiwan’s quintessential national drink, bubble tea or boba, has become increasingly popular overseas in the last few years. The drinks come in flavors like classic black milk tea with tapioca pearls or lychee green tea with aloe jelly. Workers assemble the drinks in a series of standardized steps, including customizing the sweetness level. But the pandemic has accelerated automation efforts in food processing and preparation and, according to Slate, bubble tea is no exception. Robots are very good at following standardized steps, and a Taiwanese robotics company called Taiwan Intelligent Robotics Co., has created the Bubble Tea Shaker Robot (BTSR) to make consistently prepared drinks without an entire drink-making staff. A boba shop that generally needs four to six workers would need just one worker to manage the BTSR, which would mean significant training and management savings. But so far, shops that tried similar technology in Taiwan have opened and quickly shuttered, and Qingxin Fuquan, the largest beverage franchise in the country, says it has no plans to adopt automated technology. Tea and coffee shops often double as community spaces, and being greeted by a robot just isn’t the same.