Bubble tea is quite potentially the new Starbucks. On Canal Street, I can waltz in and waltz out of the Starbucks on Centre Street on an almost whim. Meanwhile down the block, at the recently opened Canal Street Food Hall, there’s Boba Guys and they’ve always got a line. Folks from every corner of the globe with palettes as diverse as their area codes, can be found taking selfies with their strawberry matcha lattes, deftly wielding their straws amidst melting ice cubes fighting to suck up every last boba with smiles on their faces. But on a more cellular level, let’s remember where bubble tea comes from and what boba actually is, it’s Asian! The elephant in the room is yellow but no one points it out, assumes it’s Japanese or thinks of it as anything else other than what it is: delicious.
When Nicholas Anderson, Benjamin Florencio, Karlo Bello, Paul Tran and a few of their friends founded Bubble_T, this was the essence of what they were getting at. Bubble_T is a new, queer Asian dance party that took New York by storm last month for the first time and will again this week on Thursday the 22nd. Serving lewks paired with drag, dusted with high-fashion and higher heels over chatter about collective upbringings and Filipino garage party beats, Bubble_T is a celebration of fierce individuality and rogue diversity in a space that knows no bounds. Visibility is the name of the game as Bubble_T combats the stereotypes and takes ownership of the hand that is writing the quickly unraveling narrative surrounding the Asian American experience today.
The name Bubble_T is indeed a nod to the drink that we have come to all know and love but it’s also seeking to subvert something so mainstream and turn it into a channel to understand the need for community building and pride, all around. “Food is so important to all of us, it’s representative of all the overlapping Asian cultures that come together in NYC. It’s universally loved around the world,” explained Nick. The same way that food allows for common ground and the effortless flow of conversation, Bubble_T empowers its members to come together to see each other, their respective “Asianness” and in turn oneself, in an entirely different light. “Seeing other Asians lead their best creative lives all in one space is so important in knowing that you yourself can do it and you are surrounded by it,” said Karlo.
What started as a light hearted celebration of ethnic heritage has evolved to represent an ongoing conversation of identity and empathy. “The more we own the parts of ourselves that we wish were ‘invisible’, our differences, Asians will no longer be considered the lesser group. Not only to non-Asians, but more importantly ourselves” said Karlo. Asian-Americans are often referred to as “bananas”, yellow on the outside but white on the inside, as if inferring that we don’t really know who we are, lost in a race conversation that isn’t so easy to approach. “Sometimes I think the hardest part about being a gay, Asian American, is being Asian American. We have to fight against notions of who we are expected to be and what defines success among family and society. The struggle is quite real and I think it makes you become fearless, which is a common thread that brings us together at Bubble_T — that identification with our pan-Asian/half Asian/immigrant/1st generation/4th generation/local/transplant brothers and sisters,” said Pauly. Spill the T and the tea with us tonight! We hope to see you there. Cheers friends!
You’re invited: Bubble_T! Tonight 6/22 @ The Rosemont 63 Montrose Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11206, 10PM – 4AM, details on their Instagram