'We Try It' is a regular series where we try the latest off-beat food and beverage offerings.
There is no shortage of foods, liquids and condiments that were never meant to be consumed together. One that pops into our mind is crème brûlée with spicy sriracha mayo: it’s blatantly disgusting and probably only slightly more enjoyable than tongue-kissing your sibling.
Once in a while though, we gastronomical cosmonauts stumble across a truly obscure, albeit highly enjoyable combination – like dipping McDonald’s French fries in soft ice cream (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it), or, in the case of this article, cheese and tea.
That’s right, cheese and tea, together. Not cheese served on a small side plate at your local teahouse’s afternoon tea time, we're talking cheese right inside your boiling hot or – in our case – icy cold tea. And for those familiar with Gong Cha's signature concoction, this is very different than the thick cream plopped on milk cap tea (奶盖茶). What we're talking about is cheese. Straight up zhishi (芝士) cheese.
This peculiar infusion can be found at a variety of shops across the Pearl River Delta (and likely beyond), and has been growing in popularity over the past few years.
We first stumbled across this anomaly of a beverage a couple months ago while visiting a shopping mall in Foshan, where we were told a popular tea shop, Heekcaa (喜茶), whipped up this purportedly delightful drink. Undeniably skeptical, we decided to give it try (mostly because our usual excuse that the beverage may harbor endangered animal parts clearly didn’t apply).
After waiting in a considerable line, we arrived at the front sales counter and promptly ordered a cold, lychee-flavored cheese tea for RMB25.
The drink came as chilled, to-go drinks usually do – in a clear plastic cup. As the name suggests, the top quarter of the beverage was a thick, malleable cheese (similar to mild-flavored cream cheese). The bottom portion of the drink was a cool and flavorful lychee tea.
Our preferred method of guzzling is to jab a straw through the cheesy top layer and drink the tea on the bottom first. Once the tea is gone, slurp up the creamy cheese left in the bottom of your cup (that's also the best way to drink Gong Cha's milk cap, btw).
If you are looking for the full experience, mix the cheese right into the tea and enjoy a mouthful of tea-meets-lychee-meets-cheese deliciousness.
If both our previous recommendations sound unappealing to you, take the lid off your chilled cheese tea (do not do this with the hot variation) and pour the whole thing onto your face. Obviously try and get as much in your mouth as possible, but don’t feel ashamed if a bit ends up on your shirt – it adds character.
The verdict: cheese tea is pretty damn tasty. It's a much better option than a Cheese Whiz-root beer float – which are two foodstuffs that should never meet in the same cup. (For those of you who are curious: two spoonsful of original Cheese Whiz and one can of A&W Root Beer. Enjoy)
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READ MORE: Identifying Real – and Fake – Gong Cha Shops