Return to Tapioca Land.

On 22 November, the Shibuya Parco shopping complex reopened to great fanfare after a two-year hiatus. However, on that same day something more dear to our reporter Mr. Sato’s heart reopened in Tokyo too. It was the triumphant return of Tapioca Land, a business centered around 2019’s trendiest drink in Japan, Tapioca (aka, bubble tea, boba, pearl milk tea, etc.).

However, this time, rather than a nearly abandoned office complex with black balloons and even blacker tin badges, Tapioca Land has been completely re-invented as the swanky Tapioca Land Cafe, established in participation with Cen Diversity Hotel in Shinjuku.

Mr. Sato arrived bright and early for Tapioca Land Cafe’s grand opening, expecting a swam of reporters and news-copters swirling overhead, but was surprised to find only himself. It made him feel good though, as clearly no one loved tapioca as much as he did. This was proof of that.

It also meant he would be the first person in the world to taste of Tapioca Land Cafe’s offerings — a rare honor indeed!

Although there was a wide range of bubble teas to choose from, they were all uniformly priced at 500 yen (US$4.60) a piece. It was all surprisingly normal, but just before he could feel let-down, Mr. Sato spotted something life-changing…

“Da Hong Pao Tapioca Milk Tea — 10,000 yen (US$92)”

Mr. Sato’s heart jumped in his chest. This was why he had come to Topica Land Cafe. As the first customer, he felt it was both his duty and immense pleasure to purchase and drink this luxury tea.

While waiting the 20 minutes that it took to prepare this beverage, Mr. Sato decided to research Da Hong Pao tea. Considered the world’s most expensive tea and used for state guests in China as well as the imperial family in Japan, Da Hong Pao is a variant of oolong tea grown in the renowned tea terroir of Wuyi, China. One kilogram of the stuff is said to go for over one million dollars.

It was all very exciting for our tea-loving reporter who was especially relieved that it wasn’t the tapioca balls that drove up the price. Just between you and him… he actually doesn’t like the tapioca part of tapioca all that much.

Twenty minutes later his 10,000-yen tea arrived.

It looked more like cafe au lait than regular bubble tea, and was generally a little disappointing in the visual stimulation department. It was nice and all, just not 10,000-yen nice.

There was a nice little cascading gradient between the milk and tea, but Mr. Sato had still seen cooler looking tapiocas in the bustling alleyways of Harajuku for far less money.

He unwrapped and placed his gigantic tapioca straw into the luxury drink. It was an uncomfortably odd juxtaposition and made Mr. Sato wonder if he was getting scammed or just doing it wrong somehow.

Realizing that this so-called “tea of kings” wasn’t going to drink itself, he went in for a majestic first slurp.

“This… this is…”

This tea had a more rich and soothing flavor than any he had ever drunk. Even as it glided down his throat, the aroma swirled in his mouth and made a delightful escape out his nostrils. Its texture was like silk and there was a deep flavor like coffee to it. It actually caused a tangible wave of physical relaxation course through his body, which he had never experienced from a tea.

In short, it was like nothing he had ever tasted in his life, and Mr. Sato has tasted a lot of things. After drinking everything, Mr. Sato sat back in a moment of bliss, but just then he looked down at his cup and realized something.

He hadn’t consumed a single tapioca ball the whole time. They all remained at the bottom mingling with the leftover ice. However, still basking in the afterglow of the Da Hong Pao, Mr. Sato decided to just let those groovy little balls slide.

“Why did they have to put tapioca in this tapioca anyway?” he thought to himself.

Given the price, it’s hard to recommend this drink to everyone, just as it’s hard to say if any cup of tea — tapioca or no tapioca — is really worth 10,000 yen. But if there ever was one, boy, this would certainly be it.

Cafe Information
Tapioca Land Cafe / タピオカランドカフェ
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Hyakunincho 1-5-19
Open: 22 November, 2019 – 1 February, 2020
Hours: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. (opens at 10 a.m. on Saturdays)

Photos: ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]