When it comes to food, there's a lot that go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Chocolate and strawberries. Pretzels and Ranch (trust me). But I've never heard of a combo quite like cheese and tea. Yes, you read that right: cheese tea.
Apparently, cheese tea is a trend that has gotten a lot of hype in Asia. People actually wait on lines to get their fix. As food blogger Ethan Wong wrote, "I came across a shop with a huge crowd, queuing under the sun for up 3 hours just to get themselves a cup of Cheese Tea."
And now, it’s made its way overseas and onto our Insta feeds. Why? Well, word on the street is it tastes like a cheesecake.
According to Condé Nast Traveler, cheese tea originated in Taiwan around 2010 and uses "cheese powder" in place of real dairy products. But come 2012, when the Asian teahouse HEYTEA (basically a cheese tea legend) opened its doors in southern China, they changed it up, using New Zealand cheese and cream instead of the powdered stuff (which sounds good to me).
So what exactly is cheese tea?
As Metro editor Eva Kis, who visited Happy Lemon’s Flushing location, reported back in February, "It starts with brewed black or green tea (or even a chocolate shake) and are topped with a creamy cheese foam made with whipped cream, milk and cream cheese, finished with a pinch of rock salt."
Oh, and there’s a proper way to drink it. Sip from the cup — no straws allowed — with a 40-degree tilt (at least Wong says on his blog that the tilt is a must).
He wrote, "When you have a sip as instructed, 40 degrees tilted, right amount of cheese and tea fills your taste bud, bursting with complex flavor as you gulp em down!"
Tyson Tee, the COO of Reguistea (which uses Australian cream cheese in its drinks), explained to Star2 that "you are encouraged to drink without straws. When you drink this way, you can feel two layers of taste — cheese followed by tea. If you drink it with a straw, you can mostly only taste the tea."
But when Kis tried it, she said the best way to enjoy the drink is to stir it up. The only thing to do, then, was to do my own digging.
I went to Happy Lemon’s Brooklyn location. They had three flavors available in the "Salted Cheese Series" part of their menu: Green Tea with Salted Cheese, Black Tea with Salted Cheese and Chocolate with Salted Cheese (all of which can be served hot or cold).
The cashier told me that the most popular kinds are the green tea and chocolate options, but I went ahead and ordered her favorite: Green Tea with Salted Cheese served cold, "less ice" ($3.95, cash only).
She also confirmed that the 40-degree tilt sip is in fact legitimate, and that you "can’t, can’t, can’t" stir the drink — you have to indeed sip it straight.
Then ensued the moment of truth.
I did my best version of a 40-degree tilted sip, and well, I was perplexed. At first you get an intense saltiness, followed by the flavor of cream cheese. Then, to be quite honest, I tasted fluoride. (You know…what you get at the dentist’s office when they clean your teeth?)
But I kept drinking, and like all unfamiliar things, you get used to it. The aftertaste was bitter, but the cheese cream was oh-so-good. No, it did not taste like a cheesecake, but interestingly enough, it smelled just like one.
My guess is that the chocolate tea tastes more like a dessert (and less bitter, too).
My opinion? Go try it and see for yourself. It’s different, it’s jolting, but the topping itself is good.
Where you can find cheese tea in NYC?
After some digging, I found locations (including Happy Lemon) that sell cheese tea. They might have their own variations, but I got confirmations from each of these places that you’ll be able to get your fix.
136-79 39th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
Note: According to Yelp, the other Downtown Flushing location on Main St. is closed. (I tried calling to confirm and got a dial tone.)
5701 8th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11220
Chinatown, Civic Center
19A Mott St
New York, NY 10013
Note: They serve cheese tea but they call it "Milk Cap."
6815 Bay Pkwy
Brooklyn, NY 11204
38-21 Main St
Flushing, NY 11354
Debutea, Greenwich Village - OPEN Spring 2018
217 Thompson St.
New York, NY 10012
Note: Faith Hope Consolo from Douglas Elliman Real Estate confirmed to Metro that Debutea Teahouse is opening sometime in the spring of this year. It will be their first U.S. location.
Last note: If you ever want to really confuse someone over the phone, ask if they sell cheese tea. It’ll be great, trust me.