Foodie Corner News Stories Travels

What Does the Popular Chinese Cheese Tea Taste Like?

“Eeew, it sounds disgusting. Cheese in a tea?” This is the most common reaction I get my friends here in Switzerland when talking about the “hottest” drink in China right now – the cheese tea (also called Milk Cover Tea: 奶盖茶). “Well, we have a very different idea about how cheese should taste like” was my usual reply, although I have never tasted it before.

From a Western perspective, cheese is savoury and it goes well with bread – as in how I would see pickles go well with rice. From a Chinese perspective, however (as far as I’m concerned), cheese should be creamy and slightly sweet, just like cheesecake. Still, putting the cheesecake in a tea does sound a bit avantgarde.

Image Source: HEYTEA Weibo Account

In 2017, the cheese tea was invented by the Chinese brand HEYTEA (in Chinese: 喜茶 xi cha). From the beginning, it has been the new love of the Chinese millennials. In Beijing and Shanghai, don’t be surprised if you have to queue for two to three hours during peak time. At one time, there even were scalpers reselling the drinks. This phenomenon has widely been discussed in the media across the world.

With my mounting curiosity, I was determined to try a cheese tea on my trip to China, despite the short transit window I had in Beijing. But I wasn’t planning on queueing for hours. So, the off-peak time and WeChat order for self-pickup was my strategy.

So many drinks to choose from…

I thought there should be THE drink of the shop called “Cheese Tea”. But I was facing a big menu of seven categories and 40 different drinks. Within each one, you have to choose the tea base, the cheese type, the ice, sugar, the adds-on and even the straw. I turned to my local friend for help and agreed on the most popular “Fresh Fruit Tea” with mango (“Cheezo Mango”, in Chinese: 芝芝芒芒) and strawberry (“Cheezo Berry”, in Chinese: 芝芝莓莓).  It costs RMB 66 (about CHF 4 per cup).

After half an hour, my order was ready. But I was too optimistic about the Beijing traffic. When I finally held the drink in my hand after almost one hour, my excitement was through the roof. I couldn’t wait for my very first sip, and was expecting the cheese foam to be just rich and sweet. But to my surprise, I tasted a tiny bit of saltiness, which actually helps to mitigate the greasiness of the cream. It is comparable to the concept of salted caramel. The remaining two-thirds of the cup were a mix of green tea, mango juice, and fresh mango chunks. The layers of different flavors worked very well to my Chinese taste. Yummm…

Want to try for yourselves? Go find a HEYTEA branch in major Chinese cities: