Tea topped with cheese foam has been stuck on the cusp of trending stateside
“Cheese tea? What’s that?”
Mention it to anyone who’s hearing about it for the first time and you’ll likely get a scrunched-up nose and a look of confusion. Perhaps even a shake of the head. To many Americans, the combination of tea and cheese sounds downright unappetizing. But, as any cheese tea purveyor will tell you, cheese tea tastes better than it sounds. In fact, the drink isn’t that different from bubble tea, which is now firmly entrenched in the mainstream. And given cheese tea’s popularity in Asia, as well as the successful migration of other Asian desserts (like matcha-flavored sweets and shave ice) to major U.S. markets, cheese tea should be on its way to making it big in America. So what’s taking so long?
Cheese tea is the name for cold tea (usually green or black tea, with or without milk) topped with a foamy layer of milk and cream cheese and sprinkled with salt. The drink is sweet, like boba, but has a savory finish. Using a straw is prohibitive to getting enough of that tangy cream overlay, so the method of sipping it from the top of the cup at a 40- to 45-degree angle is integral to enjoying cheese tea. Shops that specialize in cheese tea, like international franchises Happy Lemon and Gong Cha as well as independent shops like Steap in San Francisco, Little Fluffy Head in Los Angeles, and Motto in Pasadena, supply a lid, not unlike a coffee lid, that circulates just the right amount of air for sipping and shields the drinker from a foam mustache.