I’m not sure if everyone noticed it, but cheese tea has been a hit among the young generation over the past few years. Here in China, if there’s a long queue on the street or in a mall, it’s most likely in front of a cheese tea shop. And what are people getting? Hashtag #SayCheeseTea! Apparently it’s also trending overseas like the US and the UK, and all over social media too.
It sounds strange, isn’t it? Cheese with wine, yes. But cheese with tea? And basically there’s no cheese in the mainstream Chinese diet, how did the idea of mixing cheese with the traditional drink of tea come up?
It all started with the milk tea. Cheese tea, same as its relative milk tea, originated from Taiwan. Milk tea shops began to appear on the streets since the 90’s, spreading from Taiwan to mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. With the rapid development of milk tea industry, the competition got intense and the products were not so different from one milk tea brand to another. In order to make a difference and meet the picky consumers’ needs, cheese tea was invented in Taiwan in 2010. Started as a street stall invention, cheese tea has evolved and improved and quickly gained it’s popularity. Since 2013, cheese tea has become a trendy drink among young people who like to try new things.
A cup of cheese tea has two layers: a tea base with a frothy milky cheesy topping. The topping is the key of cheese tea. It is made of cream cheese, milk and whipping cream. Because it floats on top of the tea base, it is called “milk cap” (奶盖, nai gai) in Chinese.
So what does cheese tea taste like? Some people say it has an acquired taste, but not to me! I fell in love with it instantly after my first sip. It was an oolong sea salt cheese tea. I drank it the way I was told: tilt the cup at a 45 degree angle, drink both the cheese topping and the tea base at the same time and allow both elements to mix in the mouth. At first it tasted liked the fluffy form of a slightly salted cheese cake, not bad! It got better once the oolong joined. The aroma and astringency from the tea balanced well with the somewhat heavy taste of the topping, leaving a wonderful aftertaste. what a great pairing!
Unlike the traditional milk tea, customer can actually taste and judge the tea base of cheese tea. That’s why most brands have selected quality tea to replace the ordinary tea or even powdered tea used in the milk tea.
To attract the customers, there must be fresh and new products coming out every so often. Various ingredients are added on top or mixed in the toppings to alter the taste and texture, such as crushed Oreo, pine nuts, walnuts, chocolate syrup, matcha, ice cream and caramel. Apart from the four basic categories of pure tea base – oolong, pu erh, green tea and black tea, fresh fruits also get to put in – mango, kumquat, strawberry, pineapple, you name it. So yes, there is definitely a long list of choices.
Not just the taste, some cheese tea shops provide a comfortable environment like coffee shops, some are exquisite boutique shops. That’s the reason why cheese tea probably here to stay and make young people drink more tea than ever.
All in all, cheese tea is highly recommended! If you can’t find it in your local area, don’t worry! We have a recipe here you can try at home:
Here’s what you need for a cheese foam tea recipe:
Now, enjoy this salted cheese drink recipe. Enjoy your cheese tea time!