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The New York Times Just Discovered Bubble Tea and the Internet Is Rolling Its Collective Eyes

Picture of Kathryn Maier
NYC Food & Drink Editor
Updated: 17 August 2017
Have you had bubble tea before? Maybe a decade or more ago? Then you’re wayyyyyy ahead of this New York Times writer.

There’s a joke within the NYC media world—one of those “it’s funny because it’s true” types of things—that the New York Times only covers an “emerging trend” once it’s already been in the mainstream for years.

The newspaper has one-upped itself today. Its business section just ran a story on bubble tea, an unfamiliar and shocking new thing the kids are drinking these days.

“Remember the first time you went to a Starbucks, and had no idea what to do? These days, bubble tea, an Asian import, seems to be going through the same consumer learning curve, as entrepreneurs bring their exotic menus to malls and big American cities,” intrepid reporter Joanne Kaufman breathlessly exclaims from her time machine on her way back from the early aughts.

Oh honey. Maybe you should’ve checked the paper’s archives first. You might’ve seen this story from last year declaring bubble tea to be “so 2002.”

What’s the worst aspect of Kaufman’s piece? The cluelessness about something that’s been found throughout the U.S. for at least a decade and a half? Or the casual racism of exoticizing a food that isn’t familiar to a particular middle-class white lady?

But wait. It gets even worse. If you click on the story now, it appears to be titled “Bubble Tea, Long a Niche Favorite, Goes Mainstream in the U.S.” The headline was changed several hours after publication; the NYT had originally gone with (and you can still see it in the URL) “The Blobs in Your Tea? They’re Supposed to Be There.”

Can you even? Because we can’t.

As expected, Twitter is serving up some gems in response.

Next time, New York Times editors, maybe double-check to make sure what you think is an emerging trend isn’t one already declared over in your own newspaper.