A new breed of modern-day tea shop that mixes iced tea with Kiwi cream cheese is breathing new life into China's traditional tea market.

There are now tens of thousands of the so-called "bubble tea" shops across China making more than 200 million drinks every year.

One of the best known chains, Hey Tea, launched in Shenzhen near the border with Hong Kong in 2012.

At the recent opening of its first Shanghai outlet people queued for up to two hours to get a taste of its now famous tea macchiato – iced tea topped with a creamy cap made from New Zealand cream cheese and whipping cream.


For New Zealand dairy producers like Fonterra the craze is a welcome - if somewhat unexpected - new opportunity.

"Drinking cream cheese in a cup of tea might sound a bit weird, but Chinese consumers and particularly young people, love the taste and texture combination these creamy sometimes salty toppings gives to the drinks," said Fonterra Greater China President Christina Zhu.

Over the last two years Fonterra has grown the volume of cream and cream cheese sold to these tea outlets by 500 percent – enough to make around 80 million cream topped drinks every year.

Part of the success of the shops has been driven by social media, with photos and videos of the long queues encouraging people to join them, rather than put them off.

"The long queues outside [Hey Tea] outlets are a common scene in Shanghai," says Zhu.

"The queues often last all day."

Zhu says the massive demand for the unusual tea means an average "bubble tea" shop would consume around 10 metric tonnes of whipping cream every year.