A unique style of tea could be headed toward your local cafe. Cheese-topped tea, which originated as a drink sold at street stalls in Taiwan before working its way through Singapore, Malaysia, and China, is now beginning to gain notoriety in the US.
OK, let’s back up. If you’re thinking this is melted mozzarella on your earl gray, you’re way off. Cheese-topped tea, known as zhī shì chá in Mandarin, is a cup of tea like matcha, jasmine, or oolong, topped with an inch or so of salty whipped cheese. The finished product looks similar to any other foam or whipped cream-topped coffee drink, so it’s unlikely you’d know zhī shì chá contained cheese until you drank it.
Condé Nast Traveler reports that cheese tea is already available in certain US establishments, like Happy Lemon in Flushing, New York, and Little Fluffy Head in Los Angeles. As a firm supporter of sweet-and-salty (and a great lover of cheese) cheese tea sounds like exactly the respite I need from overly saccharine Frappuccinos.
“It’s not just cheese and tea,” says Jenny Zheng, founder of Little Fluffy Head, in a video produced by her team. “You have the tea base at the bottom and then you top it off with cheese cream.”
Zheng, who calls the cheese element of the drink “cheese cream,” says the team at Little Fluffy Head makes the mixture fresh daily. They blend heavy cream, cheese, and milk together with an electric mixer, and then finish it with a bit of pink salt. When paired with the Little Fluffy Head earthy teas, brewed with Zheng calls a tea espresso machine, the end result is a truly tastebud-blowing combination. To give you an idea of the types of unique flavors Zheng’s team offers, the Little Fluffy Head Chedd-cha Matcha is an iced matcha latte topped with cheddar cheese cream. Other drinks feature a creme brulee cheese cream, which I imagine tastes probably like a mascarpone cheesecake with a saltier edge.
As Zheng says, “It’s like nothing you’ve had before.”