“Cheese tea” sounds gross, but if you’re picturing a cup of lukewarm Lipton with a slice of American tossed on top — well, that’s not quite it. Most people outside of Asia are unconvinced of how tasty it can be. That is, until they try it.
We’ll break it down — what goes into making it, how to enjoy it, and where to get it in Bangkok — but first, here’s a little video intro to get us started:
What is it?
The concept of cheese tea started in Taiwan and Mainland China. It is a (usually) sweetened iced tea that can be made from many tea varieties, from oolong to English breakfast, topped with a foamy, mousse-like dairy layer an inch or two thick. That’s usually made of cream, cream cheese, and milk, but can additionally include anything from heavy cream to condensed milk to whipped cream, and include flourishes like chocolate or rock salt, depending on the shop you visit and their own (usually secret) recipe.
You pick your brew of choice (whether green, jasmine, or even chocolate) and it gets topped off with a frothy mixture of sweet and salty cheese foam.
Why should you try it?
The tea is making a splash in Bangkok, throughout Asia, and even in the US, where people are lining up at shops like LA’s Little Fluffy Head café and New York’s Happy Lemon to try the drink that’s somewhere between a caffeine kick and an indulgent dessert.
Some are calling it the new boba, since the drink seems to mix two unlikely tastes and textures. You have the tea: bitter and thin, and the cheese: thick, rich, savory, and sweet to create a great balance. Cheese tea is much like boba, or bubble tea, due to its’ dual tastes and textures, making your treat’s pleasure multi-faceted and longer lasting (since it takes longer to drink).
Though Ditto Modern Tea’s co-founder, Jonas Naim Cohen, is often asked for a straw with a cup of cheese tea, he and his staff refuse, explaining that, to enjoy the tea properly, you have to sip from the cup, allowing the cheese and tea to mix in your mouth. If you use a straw, you’ll only get one taste in each sip.
To drink it correctly, you have to keep tipping the drink, even attempting a full 180 degree tilt, if possible. You’ll know you’re drinking it correctly if you end up with a big cheese mustache. It’s for this reason that Coconuts can not recommend first dates or business meetings over cheese tea, as delicious as it is.
How do you deal with it when a friend or stranger drinking cheese tea invariably gets messy? Well, at Ditto’s opening one of the owners simply walked over to me with a napkin and a nod and I knew my face must not be pristine.
At the same event, I noted a savvy French PR woman with an excellent technique: drink in one hand, napkin in the other, she simply wiped her mouth after each sip, ensuring a smart look.
Some people just don’t care about getting messy when they drink cheese tea though, and that can make drinking it a chance to get silly and let your hair down.
Not Exactly Health Food
Of course, all this sweet, rich, cheesy goodness can’t be good for you. Ditto’s Naim Chohen said that he believes one of their cups hovers around 300 calories, though every cup does not contain the exact same amount of cheese and customers specify how sweet they want it, affecting the calorie count.
Where to get cheese tea in Bangkok:
These chain tea shops are scattered throughout the city and they have an outlet in almost every mall — they are even in some BTS stations. After trying their cheese tea several times, we can say it’s reliably delicious. They offer several varieties of the drink, all topped with the same sweet cheese. Some of their “cheese teas” are not tea at all, like the passion fruit cheese tea and the (delicious) Milo cheese tea.
They also offer the weirdest version we’ve tried: the hojicha cheese tea. While hojicha (green tea that’s roasted rather than steamed) is not too unusual, Kamu’s cheese hojicha drink, topped with powdered hojicha, is dark, seaweedy, ozony, and even a bit fishy — definitely not for newbies.
This bright new tea shop in CentralWorld prides itself on its pure, high-quality, unsweetened-as-default teas. Their cheese tea is, in line with their tea philosophy, both richer and less sickly than others we tried. While they would not divulge their secret recipe, they did tell us they use Philadelphia cream cheese whipped in small batches.
Insider tip: Order off menu. Ditto co-founder Jonas Naim Cohen’s favorite cheese tea is a a half-and-half featuring half regular cheese and half chocolate cheese over iced Ceylon sweetened to your preference — it does not appear on the menu but it should because it’s divine.
Check out our full review of Ditto Modern Tea here.
Perhaps the forerunner of cheese tea in Thailand, this shop, in the trendy Siam Discovery mall, opened way back in 2017 and saw lines of thirsty customers weaving through the mall to score a cheesy cup. Heekcaa is part of the famous chain known in China as Hey Tea, which has also branched out to South Korea and Vietnam.
Heekcaa advocates call this shop’s cheese tea the fluffiest in the land, and those that don’t like overly sweet things appreciate their secret cheese blend since it has a salty kick to balance out the sweet and bitter flavors. If you want something unusual, try the Cha Thai Cheese, a special Thailand-only drink that features Thai milk tea, cheese topping, and yellow shredded foi thong (sweet egg shreds) on top of that.
Header photo: rote.jeep/Instagram
Heekcaa photo: Heekcaa/Facebook
Other photos: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts Media