Exploring a hot new Asian tea trend – The top 8 cheese tea cafes in Tokyo
Cheese tea is popular new trend that was born in Taiwan in 2010, and that has since spread throughout Asia, reaching Japan in the last few years. Now cheese tea cafes are opening all over Tokyo, and cheese tea is being touted as the new tapioca tea. So lets explore this new type of tea!
What is cheese tea?
Cheese tea is green or black tea that is topped with a cream-cheese based foam. The foam is usually lightly salted, and various cheese foam recipes using local Japanese or imported Australian and New Zealand cheeses are closely guarded secrets among the different cheese tea cafes. Cheese is not added to the tea itself, but rather is a main ingredient of the creamy foam which is placed on top of the tea.
To drink this tea correctly, you shouldn’t use a straw (otherwise you wouldn’t taste the foam at all), but rather tilt the cup and drink directly from the top, in order for the tea to pass through the foam and create the perfect combination of tea, cheese, sweet, and salty flavors. If it sounds a little strange, most new food and drink trends usually do, and once you try it, cheese tea is absolutely delicious. Maybe we really are dealing with the next big trend in tea!
Let’s take a look at 8 of the best cheese tea cafes that have recently sprung up in Tokyo.
Fortuner Tea-Box, in Meiji Jingumae
This is Japan’s first specialty cheese tea shop, located in Harajuku. There are many cafes that sell cheese tea along with tapioca teas, but this was the first shop in Japan to focus specifically on cheese tea!
The interior is really just a to-go counter, but it is done in a woody, trendy style befitting its neighborhood. Easily accessible street-side on a first floor, this is a great place for a casual stop if you are in Harajuku
Our recommendation here is the Tekkannon Cheese Tea, which is a refreshing oolong tea topped with a sweet and sour cheese cream foam.
You can add tapioca for an extra 50 yen, to combine these two Taiwanese tea trends in one drink! Or have the cheese tea without tapioca, as we personally preferred, and as the staff recommended.
Street address: 3-27-15 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku FLAG 1F
Business hours: 11:00 - 19:00
machi machi, in Meiji Jingumae
Next up is a Taiwanese-based cheese tea specialty shop called machi machi. Popular since it first opened in Japan, there is now a second location in Yokohama.
This first location in Laforet Harajuku has a calm design theme based around white and wood, with trendy touches all around, making it great for Instagrammers.
The main attraction here is a hot cheese tea that has been called “God’s cheese tea” by the Taiwanese media. Enjoy the fragrant tea with a rich, creamy, slightly salty cheese cream on top.
With a wide variety of drink options and a high degree of customization, machi machi is a café that you can enjoy again and again.
Street address: 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku Laforet Harajuku 2F GOOD MEAL MARKET
Business hours: 11:00 - 21:00
Happy lemon / Shinjuku
Right in front of Shinjuku station Keio Line entrance is Happy Lemon of Taiwan’s first café in Japan. This brand specializes in tapioca milk tea, and has 900 locations in 9 different countries.
The original milk tea tapioca menu has been expanded to include salty cheese teas, as well as Japan-only matcha drinks.
The signature Salty Cheese Milk Tea has a mild, easy-to-drink taste that is a great introduction to this new trend. You can also mix and match toppings to create your own favorite tea not on the menu.
For those already familiar with cheese tea or who don’t mind a stronger taste, we recommend the Rock Salt Cheese Shikishun tea, oolong tea mixed with cheese cream and rock salt. This can be served hot or cold, so the hot option is good if you come here on a cold day.
Street address: 1-1-4 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku Keio Department Store 1F
Business hours: 10:00 - 20:00
Saisabo, with 2 locations in Tokyo
Happy lemon’s sister brand, Saisabo is a more full service café where you can enjoy not only cheese tea, but also tapioca drinks, food, and desserts. There is one store in Harajuku and one store in Kichijoji, with the photos here being of the Harajuku location.
The interior has a calm, contemporary vibe that goes well with the drinks, and is a nice space for hanging out with friends or coworkers.
There are three types of teas which can be served with cheese cream: Iron Kannon Tea, Shiki Spring Tea and Miko Tea. The taste changes depends on which you order, so it’s fun to go with other people and compare all of them.
Given the more sit-down nature of this café, you can order teas, food and dessert as a set. It’s a bit cheaper than ordering everything separately, and you can also have some delicious Taiwanese food to go with your cheese tea.
Street address: 1-10-37 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku CASCADE HARAJUKU 1F
Business hours: (Weekdays) 11:00 - 21:00; (Weekends and Holidays) 10:00 - 21:00
Bow Rabit, in Takadanobaba
A 2-minute walk from Takadanobaba Station, Bow Rabit takes its tea brewing very seriously.
The rough dark brick exterior belies the bright and gorgeous interior, which has counter and a few seats, but is meant mostly for to-go service.
House-made cheese foam is paired with carefully selected tea leaves here. The Milk Cheese Tea is thick, but has a mild taste, while the Premium Milk Cheese Tea uses an even thicker cheese foam, and the Oreo Milk Cheese tea is topped with Oreos.
The wide variety of drinks here make Bow Rabit attractive for any beverage enthusiast. In addition to hojicha, shikiharucha, and tetsukannoncha, there are fruit juices also available. With all the options, you won’t easily get tired and may come back again and again.
Street address: 4-12-7 102 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku
Business hours: (Sunday-Thursday) 8:30-22:00; (Friday-Saturday) 8:30 - 22:30
Comma Tea, with 6 locations in Tokyo
The concept here is a “small comma for your day”, or in other words, a short relaxing break. There are six stores in Tokyo, in Ebisu, Aoyama, Ikebukuro, Takadanobaba, Shinjuku, and Kichijoji, as well as one store in Shizuoka.
The interior inside is minimalist and simple. The drinks are all made to order.
Comma tea has 5 types of cheese tea, featuring thick and salty cheese cream made with rock salt. The tea and cheese cream are always paired well here.
Additive-free house-made tapioca is a shop specialty, so think about adding it to your cheese tea as well. There are various sweetness level options, and overall, the teas here are not too sweet.
Street address: 1-22-3 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku Silver Plaza Ebisu 101
Business hours: 10:00 - 21:30
Mencha, in Monzen Nakamachi
A 5-minute walk from Monzen Nakacho Station, Mencha opened in 2018. Once you see the cute sheep logo, you will have found it!
Mencha has a simple but bright and trendy atmosphere, something you will notice that Japan seems to specialize in these days.
The special thing here is the fluffy cheese foam, which has just a touch of sweetness and uses milk from Hokkaido and cheese from New Zealand.
There are 7 types of cheese tea, to which you can also add tapioca. The fluffy cheese foam and chewy tapioca here is actually a delicious combination!
Street address: 1-22-22 Tomioka, Koto-ku Crevia Monzennakacho 101
Business hours: 10:00~22:00
Zjins Tea, in Shibuya
And finally is juice and tea bar Zjins, about an 8-minute walk from Shibuya Station, in the Aoyama Gakuin.
Here you have a dark wood interior with warm lighting that creates a cozy atmosphere, perfect for students and anyone who wants to take a short study break.
We recommend the Keika Oolong Cheese Tea, which is a beautiful two-layer drink that looks almost like beer. There are 8 different cheese teas in total, so a fair amount of cheese tea exploring is possible.
And while it is not tea, there is a menu of fruit juices topped with cheese foam that is also very popular, and maybe the next evolution in our cheese tea trend. We especially liked the mango with cheese, and strawberry with cheese. Photogenic and also delicious.
Street address: 1-2-23 MA East Building, Shibuya-ku 1F
Business hours: 10:30 - 20:00
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and we hope it was useful in preparing you to sample our new cheese tea trend in Tokyo!