Cheese tea — the cold tea drink that’s topped with a tangy layer of foam — has been on the cusp of taking off in New York for years. Could this be its moment?
The Chinese chain that turned cheese tea into an international sensation is coming to Manhattan next month. Hey Tea is opening its first U.S. tea shop in Midtown at 1407 Broadway, between West 38th and 39th streets, on December 8.
In China, Singapore, and the U.K., cheese tea is a full-blown craze. Hey Tea has thousands of locations across Asia. At peak popularity, customers would line up outside of its shops for hours.
The drink has been slower to catch on here, possibly because of the name. In China, “cheese” is often used as a more general term for dairy. The foam is actually made with cream cheese, heavy cream, sugar, and a little salt.
International chains like Happy Lemon and Mi Tea now sell iced tea with whipped foam on top, but the drink has been around much longer. It originated in Taiwan at night markets around 2010, where vendors would mix powdered cheese with whipping cream and milk to create a foam topping.
In 2012, Hey Tea turned the drink into a phenomenon. The company used cream cheese instead of powdered cheese and mixed it with fresh milk to create a more premium version of the drink.