Bubble tea: creating cultural diversity at UBC one cup at a time

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Alden Habacon, UBC’s Director of Intercultural Understanding Strategy Development, enjoys a bubble tea with Jenica Frisque, from UBC Okanagan’s Equity and Inclusion Office, second-year arts student Tiffany Huang, and UBC Okanagan’s Lisa Levell.

Story by Patty Wellborn, University Relations, UBC Okanagan

A group of UBC students is using a novel ethnic beverage to bring people together.

Grace Mak, a third-year human kinetics student who moved to Canada from Hong Kong six years ago, can often be seen on campus with a cup of bubble tea in her hands. Mak is the president of UBC Okanagan’s Teaholic club, a group of students who want to share bubble tea with fellow students, faculty, and staff.

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Grace Mak, right, serves bubble tea during a university event.

“We see a good example of cultural interaction in Vancouver bubble tea shops, so we wanted to promote this special drink of Asian culture to students in Kelowna that come from different backgrounds and places,” says Mak.

Bubble tea is a tea-based modern fusion beverage that originates from Taiwan. Fresh tea is mixed with different flavours and coloured tapioca. The tapioca, flavourless, chewy, gluten-free, and starchy, is known as “pearls” or “boba,” explains Mak. The tea is served cold, and is consumed with a large straw so the tapioca, or bubbles, can float into the mouth.

This week UBC celebrates Diversity and Equity Week and Alden Habacon, UBC’s director of Intercultural Understanding Strategy Development, says the bubble tea club is a wonderful example of students working together to share their culture. Teaholic club executives are from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China and the students are from a number of faculties and schools including Management, Arts and Sciences.

Habacon says having a culturally diverse campus directly benefits the learning of students, the work experience for faculty and staff, and UBC’s relationships with its communities.

“This commitment to intercultural understanding requires all sorts of good things to happen—like friend-making and trust building across cultures—that ultimately make UBC a more socially sustainable place to learn, live, and work,” says Habacon.  “Places that are as diverse as UBC, or aspire to be, are watching to see how we make this happen. That’s an incredible opportunity. ”

The Teaholic club sells tea at various times across campus and organizes cultural events that are open to all students. During Diversity and Equity Week, they are also sharing bubble tea the Day of Health and the Tea from Around the World event on Friday, October 3.

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