Cheese Tea Makes a Stateside Splash

Jan 20, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Across countless cultures, cheese has played a hearty role in the human diet, whether as artisanal, carefully ripened wheels or mass-produced, fluorescent-orange spray from a can.

But the people of Asia have taken their love of coagulated milk even further, and are hoping that the US is ready for their latest, Instagrammable contribution to the cuisine: cheese tea.

No, that wasn’t a typo. A typical iced tea (oolong, green, etc.) is capped off with a healthy layer of sweet or salty cream cheese thoroughly whipped to a frothy consistency reminiscent of whipped cream.

The appeal of the drink lies within its balance of flavors, with the underlying sweetness of the tea pushing against the saltiness of the cheese to create a unique yet satisfying flavor. Though it’s served with a straw, you’re better off skipping the slurping tube and drinking straight from the cup. In this manner, the cheese and tea come together in your mouth in an alchemy of taste and texture.

HEYTEA serving cheese tea. Photo courtesy HEYTEA
Image courtesy of Hey Tea.

The exact origins of this exotic elixir remain contentious: Hey Tea, a beverage company in mainland China, purports to be the mastermind, even though many credit Taiwanese street vendors starting around 2010. Originally, the drink was topped off with powdered cheese instead of real cheese. As it grew in popularity, popping up at higher-end establishments, the processed additives were jettisoned in favor of the fresh whipped cheese, often with a touch of salt.

Everyone agrees that the drink is young, and that it’s since developed into a viral sensation, drawing lengthy lines at stores and serious buzz on social media. In Guangzhou, customers queue up by the hundreds, waiting several hours for a cup of the curious liquid. The 21st-century selfie benefits have had no small role in the phenomenon: Thousands of #cheesetea hashtags have appeared across social media. And who could resist? The yellow-stained mustache that the foam leaves behind makes for an irresistible, LOL-able photo op for today’s digital age.

After conquering major Asian cities like Hong Kong and Singapore, it was inevitable that cheese tea would end up on US shores. As of now, however, it remains an isolated, coastal phenomenon, with Happy Lemon in New York, Boston and Cupertino, California, and Little Fluffy Head in Downtown Los Angeles among the first to hop in front of the emerging trend.

Some of the cheese tea variations at Little Fluffy Head in LA. Photo courtesy Little Fluffy Head
Photo courtesy of Little Fluffy Head.

“At first we were kind of slow, but we’ve been picking up fast,” said Xochitl Paredes, manager of Little Fluffy Head, which opened in August 2017. “It’s an artsy neighborhood. They see us outside, waving samples, and they want to come in and try something new.”

Little Fluffy Head even developed a special lid that allows customers to get a taste of both tea and dairy in every sip. The LA shop had to add American flourishes to the Chinese drink, of course, as well as concessions to the American palate. 

“We have a drink called the Camouflage, which is a matcha with creme brûlée topping, so it’s more dessert-y,” Paredes said. “We also have a cheddar-cheese topping, and you can taste pieces of cheddar in the drink.”

Still, skeptics abound.

“I don’t understand how that could even taste good,” said tea connoisseur Nikki Glendye. “I’ve been drinking tea my entire adult life, and that isn’t tea. It’s just gross.”

Here’s where to find cheese tea in the US: Happy Lemon (Queens, New York), Happy Lemon (Cupertino, California), Happy Lemon (Boston), Little Fluffy Head (Los Angeles).

Feature photo courtesy of Little Fluffy Head

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.