Bubble Tea a.k.a. Pearl Milk Tea!
Pearl milk tea, boba tea, boba…there are so many names! Bubble tea is a refreshing and delicious beverage that was introduced in Taiwan in the 1980s and has since spread rapidly across Asia and beyond, recently booming in Japan. Using a milk tea base, bubble tea is served over ice with soft, chewy balls of tapioca, which you can suck up through a thick straw. It is then sealed in what has become an instantly recognisable plastic cup. What is there not to love?
Although the original bubble tea is black tea with condensed milk, tapioca balls and honey or syrup, you can now enjoy a whole multitude of mixes, flavours and blends. Milk green tea, peach tea, jasmine, oolong, earl grey, coffee, coffee mixed with tea (!), honey lemon tea–add foam, ice cream, more syrup, more ice, crushed ice, fruit jellies instead of tapioca balls, hot or cold, and the list could go on. Nearly anything you can think of can be sealed in a cup by the specially designed bubble tea machine. Then all you need to do is shake it up, pierce it with the wide straw and enjoy your refreshing drink.
There you have it, the perfect refreshment!
Stroll through Harajuku on a warm summer day and you will probably notice that every other person you pass will be holding some variation of bubble tea.
Where Are the Best Places to Get Bubble Tea in Tokyo?
Here are my personal recommendations!
- Gong Cha, Harajuku Omotesando – Arguably the best bubble tea in town, this place was founded in Taiwan in 2006. Gong Cha retains all the traditional elements of Taiwanese bubble tea, but it also lets you experiment with different flavours (within a reasonable range, of course). Prices range between ¥500-¥800 depending on size and ingredients. It is a 10 minute walk from Omotesando/Meiji-jingumae station.〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae, 6−6−2 Harajuku Bell Pier 1F
- Pearl Lady, Shibuya – No tables or chairs here, just counter tops with an infinite choice of different bubble teas! Located on the famous Doganzaka Hill in central Shibuya, Pearl Lady offers picture menus as well as a variety of crepes to compliment your tea! Prices range between ¥500-¥900 for tea. 〒150-0043 Tokyo, Shibuya, Dogenzaka 2-23-13
- Ta Ta Tea, Hiyoshi – While it is a bit further out from the centre of Tokyo, it is nonetheless delicious and cheaper than most places (about ¥400 for a decent sized tea)! Take the Meguro Line from Meguro (Yamanote Line) or the Tokyu Toyoko Line from Shibuya (about 20 minutes from either). White bar stools stacked against a squeaky clean counter and friendly staff welcome you in.〒223-0062 Hiyoshihoncho, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 1-3-8
On the next warm day in Tokyo, head out and enjoy the silky, slippery smoothness of a bubble tea!