Bubble tea, in all its glorious, sugary forms, has but one flaw: the inconvenient truth of its plastic packaging’s environmental impact. With its typically single-use plastic cups, covers, and — most critically — oversize straws that must be large enough to accommodate the girth of a tapioca pearl, the drink has proved a challenge for bubble tea vendors looking for eco-friendly alternatives that aren’t overly cost-prohibitive, the way silicone, metal, and bamboo straws can be.
What if the solution is to simply … get rid of the straw? Float, a bubble tea vessel created by Taipei-based industrial designers Mickey Wu and Fang Shih, operates on that very premise. The cup is comprised of six reusable, washable components: a recycled glass cup that, judging from photos, is at least a 20-ounce big boi; a Tritan hard plastic inner cup designed to hold tapioca balls or other add-ons; and four parts that make up the lid, which appears to have two openings that allow the drinker to alternately sip just the liquid, or the liquid and the add-on.
As demonstrated in the promotional video, the makers recommend pouring the liquid first, adding ice to the middle of the drink for better temperature distribution, and topping it off with the tapioca bubble-filled inner cup, which creates the illusion of pearls suspended mid-drink, rather than sinking to the bottom of the cup as they are wont to do.
According to the product’s design page, Float is currently “in manufacturing” and is slated to come out at the end of 2019. Should that projection hold true, the release will be perfectly timed with Taiwan’s sweeping plastic ban, which will outlaw the in-store use of plastic straws in large food and beverage vendors starting in mid-2019, restrict any use of free plastic straws in those establishments starting in 2020, and require customers to pay a fee for carryout plastic straws starting in 2025. By 2030, Taiwan News reports, “the goal is to have a complete blanket ban on the use of plastic straws at all establishments in Taiwan.”
American boba connoisseurs, sit tight: Eater has reached out to Float’s designers to inquire if the cup will be available to customers outside Taiwan. (For my sake, I hope to god the answer is yes.)
Update 5/24/19: Designer Fang Shih confirmed in an email that Float “will be sold in Taiwan this year, and will be sold outside of Taiwan in the future.”
“Unfortunately, I cannot give you any specific information about when and where now,” Shih continued, before adding a plug for Float’s Facebook page for any and all future updates.