By Karla Amador
There’s a new tea trend that migrated from across the Pacific to find a home in downtown Los Angeles. This new tea is unlike oolong and boba tea. Have a guess? It’s cheese tea!
Surprised? Jenny Zheng, founder of Little Fluffy Head Café, was too when she first encountered the unique tea during a trip back home to China.
“While I was visiting, I saw tea houses all over selling this type of tea drink,” she says. “The first time I tried the tea was at a tea shop called HEYTea, located in Guangdong Province.”
Cheese tea originates from Taiwan and quickly became popular in mainland China. As of 2017, it’s gained even more popularity in the US.
“The timing was perfect, really. I did not know what I was going to pursue with my degree, I was working part-time at a tea shop, and I loved working with tea. The idea just took off from there,” she says.
“After I earned my Master’s in bioengineering at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), I realized I didn’t want to just find a job. I wanted to challenge myself and own a small business.”
When she decided to pursue her dream, Zheng studied several small business management books to prepare herself for this new challenge. And her bioengineering background proved more useful than one might expect.
“Studying Bioengineering taught me how to make decisions based on evidence and facts,” she explained. “Also, my testing and research experience enables me to create and experiment with my own cheese tea recipes.”
There were many who doubted whether or not Zheng’s cheese tea café would be successful. The idea of cheese tea was largely unheard of in the US until last year after all. But Zheng didn’t see it that way.
Within three months of opening, Little Fluffy Head Café managed to sell out of 80 percent of its back-stocked products. And business is still going strong.
She explains that keeping up with the high demand is both a reward and a challenge. Thankfully, she has a team of experienced business partners who are helping drive the café’s success.
For people who want to try cheese tea for the first time, Zheng recommends the Dirty Mess, a black milk tea with crème brûlée and Oreo toppings. Or the Original Fluffy Tea, which comes with whipped cream cheese topping.
For the more adventurous there’s the Chedd-cha Matcha. It is an iced matcha latte topped with foamy cheddar.
A word of advice from the expert: “When trying cheese tea for the first time, sip at a 45 degree angle so the cheese and tea can mesh well together,” she explains “Or else, the cheese may turn into curds.”
As a millennial and women of color, Zheng believes that now is an excellent time to pursue your ideas and new opportunities.
“There’s an influx of information available about starting your own small business. Don’t be afraid of entrepreneurship. Now is the best time to go out, explore, and invest in your vision.”