Cheese tea is iced tea—often black, matcha, or oolong—that gets topped with a foamy mixture of cream cheese, whipping cream, milk, and salt. Originating with Taiwanese street vendors around 2010, the creamy, savory drink found a fanbase among the late-night crowd. The trend then spread to other Asian countries and became especially popular in China.
The salty, sweet cheese foam mixed with the cold, often bitter tea offers a unique combination of flavors. Experts advise drinking the cup at a 45-degree angle (it typically has a lid with a small slit instead of a straw) to get just the right amount of tea and foamy cheese at the same time. Some vendors use powdered cheese to achieve a truly fluffy texture. Others pile on additional flavor with a garnish of fresh fruit or egg floss, or by mixing chocolate or Oreo into the tea. Many drinkers, however, have noted that they prefer plain teas as the complement to the already flavorful cheesy topping.
While very popular in Japan, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, and Singapore, cheese tea has yet to attract a large following outside Asia. To some, the combination of cheese and beverage may sound unorthodox, but it’s a pairing that appears in other cultures as well. Finns and Swedes sip kaffeost, a cup of steaming coffee with a floating cheese cube inside, while Colombians stir salty, white cheese into hot chocolate to make a sweet-and savory beverage known as chocolate santafereño.
Need to Know
Though cheese tea has yet to achieve widespread popularity outside Asia, it can be found in Chinatowns around the world. The boba-focused chain Happy Lemon makes a variety of cheese teas and lists their store locations on their website.
Where to Try It
This dessert spot in Flushing makes teas, sweet jellies, and more.