You've had bubble tea. Now meet the next Asian drink trend to hit Columbus.
At the beginning of any culinary trend, everything's up in the air, and questions abound. Who started it? What's the true “authentic” version? Is there one? Is the trend even worthwhile?
Starting with the invention of bubble tea in the '80s, dessert-y Asian tea drinks have been hurtling through this trend cycle at a dizzying pace. Chains like Kung Fu Tea—a go-to stop for Ohio State University's Chinese students, with two locations in Central Ohio—are keen participants in the frothy maelstrom. It offers more than 100 drink options—from coconut milk tea to mung bean slush—with limitless opportunities for customization. If it's hot in Taiwan or Shanghai, Kung Fu will have it.
Well, except for one drink—for now. Three locally owned Asian tea/dessert shops—The Brewed Leaf, Fairy Ville and Wali Desserts—are on the cutting edge of the trend by offering cheese tea. You read that right: cheese tea.
The drink starts with a tea that can be brewed or made from a powder. The tea can be plain or flavored (usually with fruit), served with or without milk. The tea fills roughly 80 percent of a clear plastic cup, with the remaining 20 percent filled with “cheese cream,” a thick concoction of whipping cream, milk, salt and some variation of cheese. Some versions use powdered cheese (often derived from cream cheese), while others like The Brewed Leaf and Fairy Ville use real cheeses like cheddar. At Fairy Ville, it's described on the menu as a milk cap.
Is it any good? It's sweet and salty, and the silky cheese cream cap imparts a subtle cheesecake note that pairs better with some teas than others. The peach oolong at The Brewed Leaf is a favorite. Cheese tea is meant to be sipped rather than consumed through a straw, a technique that melds the two layers of flavor and offers the added bonus of a (widely Instagrammed) cheese cream mustache.