Cheese foam is basically cream cheese + whipped cream, and it’s used as a topping for tea and coffee!
How to Make It
First, start with the tea. You need something to put the cheese foam on top of, afterall!
Steep a handful of jasmine green tea leaves in hot water before you mix in sugar and a touch of salt. Let it cool while you work on everything else.
Next, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the boba. The cook time depends on the package directions (you could start cooking your boba before you steep the tea depending on how stubborn your boba is).
The boba is cooked through when it’s translucent throughout.
Not sure? You can cut or bite into the boba; you’ll know that the boba needs to cook for a while longer if the center is chalky.
Mix in a little brown sugar and salt to season the boba, then onto the main event: cheese foam.
Mash together salt, sugar and rosewater with the cream cheese. This is the easiest time to de-lumpify the cream cheese, since it can get messy if you try to do so after the heavy cream has joined the party.
The combo of room temperature cream cheese with a little liquid helps you get to this stage. I also like smearing the cream cheese against the bowl with a spatula, instead of having to scrape down a whisk every few seconds.
It might look and feel like the cream cheese will never smooth out, and you might want to slide by with a few lumps. Whisk a little more, feel the burn in your underworked bicep, and I promise it will be smooth in less than a minute.
Add half of a cup of heavy whipping cream, and switch to a whisk. Whisk until thickened.
The texture should look something like cream cheese frosting at this point. You’re aiming for a thinner texture though, otherwise the foam is a dense plop on top of the drink and doesn’t mix in nicely.
Mixing (not whisking!) in the remaining cream and a bit of water does the trick.
Don’t worry about being too rough with it and losing the volume, because the aim is to make it thinner and looser. You can kind of mash and fold it in using a spatula.
Most recipes call for milk instead of more cream, but I like the richness of more cream. This also allows you to add more water to get the texture thinner without diluting the decadence.
The final consistency should be almost pourable, so keep adding a little water at a time until you feel good about it.
This makes the drink easier to sip (especially if you’re not using a straw), and the smooth layer it forms on top without sinking into the drink is more aesthetic(assuming that you care about that sort of thing).
For assembly, divide the boba, tea and some ice between glasses, then gently spoon or pour the cheese foam on top!
How to Drink
There’s two different ways you can savor cheese foam drinks. You can shake or stir everything together, or you can sip.
I personally like stirring the tea with the cheese foam, which transforms the whole drink into creamy deliciousness.
However, at boba shops, they will often give you a lid that’s meant to be sipped out of (one shop actually refused me a straw), and you get a little bit of the cheese foam and some of the tea.
This method gives you a hit of foam with every sip, but it’s almost too much for me at the top of the drink.
You can try both ways and see which one you like better!
A note to anyone who hasn’t tried cheese foam before: it’s really rich, so I wouldn’t recommend eating by the spoonful unless you’re having that kind of a day.
The name is kind of a misnomer, since it involves cream cheese and not a traditionally savory and/or funky one like smoked gouda or blue cheese. It’s similar to cheesecake, in both its decadence and its use of cream cheese.
Speaking of cheesecake, check out this guava cheesecake if you're in the mood for that!
When mixed into tea, it makes the tea creamy and the slight tang of the cream cheese comes through without being too much.
If you’ve ever had an iced sea salt coffee, then you can do something similar here! Increase the salt in the cheese foam to ¾ teaspoon, and you’re set.
You can flavor the cheese foam however you would like. My decision to use rosewater was mostly driven by the two almost full bottles in the pantry (and I like the flavor).
Vanilla extract, orange blossom water, sifted matcha, cocoa powder or instant espresso powder also sound like mouth watering ideas! You can stir them in like you would with the rosewater.
Sour Cream Substitution
Say you don’t have cream cheese on hand and/or can’t find any: you can make this recipe with sour cream instead, even though it makes something that isn’t technically “cheese” foam anymore. Use the same weight of sour cream as you would cream cheese (4 ounces).
You can follow the exact same method as the original cream cheese recipe.
However, if you have a little extra time and energy, I’d recommend whipping the cream, then mixing in everything else. This will make for a slightly thicker texture than mixing the liquid heavy cream into the sour cream.
Regardless of what method you use, because sour cream is thinner than cream cheese, you don’t need to add the cream/milk and water at the end.
Overall, I find that the texture is thinner than the cream cheese foam (not a bad thing, since it mixes into your drink more easily).
It’s also a little less decadent (which makes sense, given that there’s 34.4g of fat per 100g of cream cheese compared 19.4g of fat per 100g of sour cream).
Depending on my mood, sometimes I like to double the amount of sugar (from 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup) when I use sour cream. Sour cream is a lot tangier than cream cheese, and I (can’t speak for you) am not here for a half-hearted cheese foam.
Toppings are optional, and you can omit the boba if you would like. Or you can add other toppings (grass jelly would be amazing!).
You can play around with the kind of drink you use under the cheese foam, too.
My friend really got me into the fruit milk tea vibe recently, so I can imagine a world where cheese foam on top of grapefruit green tea would hit the spot.
Or maybe you’re in the mood for treating yourself (can relate, especially as I’m typing this up alongside a hefty dose of the Sunday scaries), and want to do cheese foam on top of already creamy red bean milk tea.
I’ve also used it on top of black coffee, and my roommate has been a fan of doctoring up her Thai tea and her hot chocolate with it.
You can make the tea and cheese foam ahead of time. Store them in the fridge for up to one week, and you can build yourself a boba shop worthy drink whenever you’re in the mood.
I would not recommend making the boba too far in advance, since it gets hard after you refrigerate it.
Sometimes I have leftover boba from the day before, and microwave the boba for 30-60 seconds until it’s warm and soft again. It’s passable for leftovers, but the boba is definitely best consumed on the day that it is cooked!
- 6 tablespoons jasmine green tea leaves
- 3 cups hot water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup boba
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon rosewater optional
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons water
Combine the tea leaves and water. Let the tea steep for 15 minutes, then take out the tea leaves. Press down on the tea leaves to extract any excess liquid, then discard the tea leaves.
Mix in the sugar and salt, then let the tea cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Bring a medium pot half full with water to a boil, then add the boba. Cook according to the package instructions.
Drain the boba, and mix in the sugar and salt. Let cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, salt and rosewater until the cream cheese is smooth and no long lumpy. You can do this with an electric mixer or by hand.
Add the ½ cup heavy whipping cream, and beat until thick and combined.
Add the remaining heavy whipping cream and the 2 tablespoons water, and mix gently until the mixture dribbles off your spatula easily.
Divide the boba between 3 glasses. Add ice, and the tea. Spoon or pour the cheese foam on top, and serve!
If you don’t have cream cheese on hand, you can also make this recipe with sour cream (not quite cheese foam anymore, but the flavor is similar). Use 4 ounces of sour cream, and omit the extra 2 tablespoons of cream and the 2 tablespoons of water added at the end.
You can make the tea and cheese foam up to 1 week in advance and store in the refrigerator, but the boba should be cooked on the day of serving.
Could you substitute greek yogurt or a whole milk yogurt for the cream cheese to make this a healthier option?
could definitely try! there should be enough heavy cream that it'll still taste rich (but not quite as decadent compared to using cream cheese), but the texture might be thinner and not quite as smooth (not bad things, just some thoughts).