Choose your fighter.
A bubble tea renaissance is paving the way for new shops across the Japanese capital of Tokyo, and each comes with its own spin on the drink. We let you in on six shops you need to try, at least once. Or twice.
1 — PEARL LADY. In the heart of kawaii capital Harajuku is Pearl Lady, a 15-year-old bubble tea shop. It’s said to be the originator of “dessert bubble teas” that incorporate sweets such as cake. Indulge in a Lovely Strawberry, with its mix of sweetened milk, cream, cake and super-cute pastel-pink toppings. pearllady.jp
2 — COMMA TEA. With outlets in the sleek neighborhoods of Ebisu and Omotesando, Comma Tea prioritizes elegance over hype. The minimalist store design matches the brand’s more adult-centric menu. Check out the classy and refreshing Assam milk tea, as well as the summery hibiscus and rosehip herbal soda. comma.tea-co.jp
3 — CHAKASHO. If you were to judge the quality of a shop’s drinks by the length of its queues, then you’ll be reassured at Chakasho. From Kitashinjuku, the brand has expanded this year with a store in Harajuku. For something uniquely Japanese, go for the classic Hokkaido milk tea with brown sugar syrup. chakasho.tapioka.owst.jp
4 — BUBBLY BUBBLES. The creation of Shinjuku’s fantastically bizarre Robot Restaurant, the stall, which opened in March, plays off gaudy interpretations of old-world China—but its over-the-top aesthetics don’t compromise the taste of the drinks. The Calpico Mango, for one, is a winner. bb-tokyo.com
5 — SAISABO. Off Harajuku’s Takeshita-dori, Saisabo is the ideal place to escape the district’s candycoated madness. Don’t miss the “fluffy” milk tea, with ice cream, mango, and tapioca pearls covered in cotton candy; and the salted cheese tea, a floral drink topped with sweet and salty cheese foam. saisabo.com
6 — EMIAL TAPIOCA MILK (7-ELEVEN). Japan’s 7-Eleven stores are some of the best-stocked in the world. So, of course, there’s bubble tea to-go. It may not be the flashiest of the bunch, but it does the job — sweet, but not too cloying and with perfectly chewy bubbles. And the best bit? No waiting in lines. sej.co.jp/in/en.html
Catch something special this September:
This month, Tokyo celebrates the bubble tea hype with an entire theme park dedicated to the drink. The park, named Tokyo Tapioca Land, is anchored in candy-obsessed Harajuku. Guests can expect tapioca-themed food and pop-ups, bubble tea drinks, celebrity collaborations and plenty of photo booths to snap that perfect pearl-tea picture. It’s running now until September 16, so don’t miss out! Tickets available via tokyophotogenicteam.com/tapioca!