Say 'cheese' and snap

A customer sporting a moustache drinking a cup of cheese tea.
A customer sporting a moustache drinking a cup of cheese tea.PHOTO: RAYNALDYMARTZ/INSTAGRAM

People from Singapore to San Francisco are waiting in long lines to get their hands on a cup of cheese tea to post on their social-media accounts

WASHINGTON • This year has given you the unicorn frappuccino, pea milk, the gummy bear juice cleanse, pumpkin spice deodorant and its greatest (worst) gift, microwaveable mug cakes for one.

But just when you thought you were out of the woods, along comes 2017's final salvo: cheese tea.

Those are two words that do not go together. Cheese. In tea. But this is not Humboldt Fog or Camembert. The cheese used in cheese tea is usually a cream cheese - sometimes sweet, sometimes salty - combined with condensed milk.

It forms a tall, frothy head at the top of the beverage, sort of like whipped cream in a frappuccino.

The teas are often matcha, oolong, jasmine and black, and you can customise them with fruit and other flavour infusions.

They are kind of like bubble tea, which has made its way into mall foodcourts across the United States.

Shops in Taiwan and China are both credited for starting the cheese tea fad and some Chinese cheese tea shops command queues 75 people long.


It spread to Singapore, Hong Kong and other large Asian cities before it came to New York and California via the bubble tea chain Happy Lemon, among others.

Some shops are even starting to riff on the ingredients, such as a place in San Francisco that uses mascarpone and Meyer lemon.

The trend has also made its way to England, where people care deeply about their tea and are feeling threatened.

Because those pastel-green cups of matcha look so pretty and because they require the commitment of waiting in line, cheese tea is a status food, like the Cronut once was.

To try one is not mere curiosity about a new beverage. It is a social signifier: It means you think you are a person with interesting taste, with disposable income and the kind of lifestyle that permits you to casually wait in long lines for tea.

So, naturally, people are Instagramming these. Many photos tagged with #cheesetea are selfies of people with frothy moustaches because shops tell customers not to use straws so they can taste both flavours of the drink at the same time.

If you decide you want to hate cheese tea, you should probably hate it because of the selfies, not the flavour, which fans say is pretty subtle and surprisingly delicious.

At this rate, it will probably be a special Starbucks promotional item in a year or so.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2017, with the headline 'Say 'cheese' and snap'. Print Edition | Subscribe