Suppliers struggle to keep up with tapioca boom in Japan

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) – Drinks containing tapioca, made from the cassava root found in tropical regions, have become all the rage, especially among young women.

Many chains in Taiwan, where the drink originated, have opened branches in Japan, and major restaurant operators have started to add it to their menus.

However, rapid success has also created an unwanted situation – supply just can’t keep up with demand.

At Tapici Tea Stand, a tapioca drink specialty store that opened on Friday in Umeda, Osaka, more than 100 people lined up before the doors opened. “I like the way it looks and its chewy texture,” said a 14-year-old junior high school girl from Osaka who waited three hours for the store to open.

Its popularity among women in their teens and 20s stems from its colourful appearance that looks good on social media sites, as well as the feeling of fullness it provides. Doughnut shop Mister Donut and Coco’s family restaurant are among the major chains that have started selling tapioca products.

Tapioca is a starch made from the cassava rhizome. It is ground to remove toxins and processed into granular “tapioca pearls” by machine. Tapioca pearls used in drinks are coloured and flavoured with caramel colouring or other syrups.

Young women line up to make a purchase at the Tapici tea stand in Osaka. – THE JAPAN NEWS/ANN