Bubble tea (also called boba) first came out of Taiwan many years ago, and most believed that the novelty had long worn off. But suddenly in Japan, long lines of fashionable teenagers started to stretch far out the doors and more and more bubble tea businesses kept popping up around the youth culture centres of Tokyo, leaving those out of the loop scratching their heads.

Well, the bubble tea game has changed. High quality teas have been sneaking their way in and taking over the market. The tea shops now have extensive menus encapsulating a wide range of green teas, black teas, oolong teas, fruit teas and many more. Some shops have evolved to be endlessly customisable, allowing the customer to choose from hot or cold, adjust the sweetness or amount of ice, and create the perfect bubble tea. The classic tapioca balls aren’t even the only option anymore (in fact, you can completely do away with them if you wish). The latest trends for add-ons include brown sugar tapioca and cream cheese toppings.

As the bubble tea world gets more confusing, allow us to introduce the best tea purveyors for tapioca beginners.

Tokyo's Best Bubble Tea Shops to Try Out

1. Gong Cha (Various Locations)

The extensive menu along with the seemingly infinite options for customisation has made this chain a firm favourite in Tokyo. Queuing is a given, but the army of staff have the efficient production line-style process down to a military precision, minimising wait times.

Source: PR Times

Black milk tea and tapioca pearls is the classic, but why not take advantage of the choices and be a bit adventurous? Gong Cha have their own recommended combinations like Milk Foam Jasmine Green Tea and Grass Jelly, or Oolong Milk Tea and Aloe. There’s also usually at least one limited time only, seasonally appropriate menu item to give a go.

Gong Cha store list available on website

2. The Alley Lujiaoxiang (Various Locations)

This chic option has plenty of inventive takes on the bubble tea trend, even taking inspiration from tiny arboriculture with their Bonsai Garden Milk Tea.

Source: PR Times

The Alley boasts handmade sugar syrup and tapioca balls, as well as naturally roasted tea leaves. Their Brown Sugar Tapioca series is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. But if you’re not fond of tapioca, try out the Snow Velvet series for a milk foam topped treat.

Source: PR Times

The Alley Lujiaoxiang store list available on website

3. Cafe de Kave (Shin-Okubo)

Everything about this tea shop is cute. From the décor to the tea itself, which comes in sealed receptacles that you can open like a drinks can and consume through a straw. There's also plenty of photo spots where you can pose with your Instagrammable beverage.

If long, customisable menus give you a headache, this place is stress free with just four bubble tea flavours to choose from.

Address: 169-0072 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Okubo 1-17-16

Cafe de Kave official Instagram

4. Heuk Hwa Dang (黒花堂) (Shin-Okubo)

One of the current trends for the most extravagant bubble teas is luxuriously creamy tea and incredibly rich brown sugar syrup. This place combines the two in a wonderfully thick concoction. The simple menu only offers the shop's few specialty items, making it a dream for indecisive people.

You can even peek through the window to see the giant pan of sugary tapioca balls. If you're into that.

Address: 169-0073 Tokyo, Shinjuku, Hyakunincho 2-2-1 Remax building 1F

Heuk Hwa Dang official Instagram

5. Machi Machi (Harajuku)

Cheese tea sounds totally weird, but it's not what you're thinking of. We promise. It gets its name from the dense cream topping which contains cream cheese. The cream doesn’t taste overly cheesy and it makes the perfect salty companion to the sweet tea and sweet tapioca.

Source: PR Times

Machi Machi was dubbed ‘God Cream Tea’ by Taiwanese media due to the highly viscous and velvety topping. Japan's first ever branch, located in Harajuku's La Foret shopping mall, has plenty of fruity options which look like a refreshing treat for summer. There's an exclusive creme brulee tea that will surely appeal to the trendy, dessert-loving clientele of Harajuku.

Source: PR Times

Address: 150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae 1-11-6 Laforet Harajuku 2F

Machi Machi website


By - Jess.