Looks like the bubble tea bubble hasn’t burst quite yet!

Tapioca, bubble tea, boba — as the temperature rises, so too does our craving for those sweet boba balls. For die-hard fans and casual drinkers alike, there’s nothing better than some tasty tapioca on a hot day.

But where’s the best place to get your boba fix in Japan? You won’t have to search very hard, as June 15 was the annual Tapioca Grand Prix, where stores across Japan competed to be crowned ‘the best boba in Japan’.

The Tapioca Grand Prix first took place in 2020, and is run by the Japan Tapioca Organisation. The organisation runs the event in the hope of not only finding the best tapioca in Japan, but also to ensure that tapioca remains a part of Japanese life in years to come. While it’s true that tapioca has taken a beating in popularity since it first became popular back in the summer of 2019, the Japan Tapioca Organisation hopes that boba won’t just become a passing trend, like tomato juice and dirt were before it.

The Tapioca Grand Prix was a close-run battle, but tapioca chain CoCo-Toka took the top spot.

The final rankings saw CoCo-Toka taking the win, with last year’s winner, Gong Cha, along with Bull Pulu and MAX SEE all receiving runner-up awards. CoCo-Toka have been in business since 2017, long before the boba wave crashed onto Japanese shores, and has six stores in Tokyo, one in Osaka and one in Hyogo.

▼ CoCo-Toka is also very Instagrammable.

CoCo-Toka may have taken the top spot with the Japan Tapioca Organisation, but how would it fare with our own boba aficionado, Mr. Sato? He made his way to his local CoCo-Toka, a store in Takadanobaba that opened in 2018.

As his eyes drifted across the menu, he was torn. Would he play it safe and go for a classic milk tea boba? Or would he spice things up and go for something fruity?

Actually, the Tapioca Grand Prix had two awards — the overall best tapioca store, and more specifically, the best brown sugar milk tea, and CoCo-Toka had taken the top spot in both categories. If he was going to drink anything, it was surely going to be this award-winning drink!

It had been a while since Mr. Sato had enjoyed a delicious boba, and as he held the cup in his hand, he immediately felt the gentle warmth of the boba, even though he’d ordered a cold drink.

He was also pleased to see the brown sugar syrup, all nicely collected at the bottom — it was almost like seeing an old friend. He remembered to stir the syrup into his drink with the straw to balance the taste. Once the drink was nice and mixed, he put the straw to his lips and…

▼ Slurp!

The boba beads hit the back of Mr. Sato’s mouth in quick succession like a tapioca machine gun. Oh, how he had missed this feeling! The brown sugar milk tea was beautifully sweet and delicious, and our reporter quickly realised this was a beverage worthy of the accolades. Long live tapioca!!

Mr. Sato may be our resident boba expert, but the truth is he doesn’t drink it as much as he should these days — he’s too busy with other culinary curiosities to make time for bubble tea. But as those delicious balls of boba bounced off the back of his throat, he remembered why he loved it so much. So while the number of tapioca stores may be in decline, and stores that once boasted huge line-ups are now almost empty, why not treat yourself to a cheeky bubble tea every now and again? Or if tea just isn’t your thing, get adventurous with boba beer!

Top image: Pakutaso
Other images © SoraNews24
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