San Francisco

Steap Creates San Francisco Twist on Cheese Tea

A trendy Asian beverage is getting a local twist in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Emil DeFrancesco opened Steap Tea Bar in January, but he started it as a pop-up venture nearly four years ago. Back then, he sold drinks in front of nearby Tony's Pizza Napoletana in North Beach thanks to the good graces of owner Tony Gemignani.

Now DeFrancesco has an opportunity to pay homage to Gemignani with Tony's Tea, a new drink he's launching in the shop on Saturday. It's a variation on cheese tea, which has roots in Taiwan and China and is currently proliferating in the Bay Area thanks to chains like Happy Lemon.

Don't picture Velveeta, cautions DeFrancesco — cheese tea is really more like a savory whipped cream, often blended with salt and powdered cream cheese. DeFrancesco's version uses Gemignani's imported Italian sweet mascarpone cheese blended with sea salt for a rich and fluffy topping on his Meyer lemon-green tea. As you sip, you can control the amount of tea and topping you ingest, or blend it all together for something akin to a tea shake.

Gemignani will provide 100 free slices of pizza to the first customers at Steap on Saturday who order Tony's Tea starting at noon.

DeFrancesco took inspiration from cocktail bars for Steap, and he displays his high-quality ingredients in front of his customers.

"I love mixing drinks for people of all ages," he said.

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