Last weekend, my friends and I stopped into a Chinese herb and tea shop after dim sum in Chinatown. How do you know you’re in a Chinese herb and tea shop? It’ll hit your nose dead center when you walk inside. Trust me, you’ll know. Two of my friends purchased packs of Wong Lo Kat brand herbal tea. I picked up a bag and with my very limited Chinese character reading skills, translated the two largest characters to “cool tea.” It was just labeled as herbal tea in English. At a dollar a pack, I bought two.
So let’s talk about “cool tea” for a moment. In Chinese culture, when one’s body gets too “hot” it needs to be cooled down back to equilibrium. During my childhood, whenever I told my mom I bit my tongue, lip or got canker sores, my mom would say in Cantonese that I had yeet hay, which literally translates to hot air. How does one get yeet hay? Well, from eating too much junk food or fried foods of course. My mom would then go to the kitchen, search though the cupboards and pull out bags of Chinese herbs. She would combine the herbs and simmer them in a clay kettle for hours. The smell of the herbs spread throughout the hours. When time was up, she would pour this liquid black stuff into a bowl for me to drink. After all these years, I finally realized what she was doing to help get rid of this yeet hay from my body…she was making detoxifying herbal tea. The realization blew my mind.
The packaging has some serious design issues. Aside from the size 2 font, the color of the text is the same color as the thin diagonal stripe pattern of the background. It took me a very long time to find the directions listed above the nutrition label, and when I did, I could barely make them out. Who designed this shit?
The ingredients list wasn’t any easier to read. It took me a while, but after some help with Google, I managed to jot down the ingredients:
- Ilex asprella Champ
- Morus alba L. (White Mulberry)
- Cratoxylon ligustrinum (Spach)
- Helicteres Angustifolia L.
- Microcos paniculata L.
- Ficus microcarpa L.
- Rosa laevigata Michx (Cherokee Rose)
- Polygonum chinese L.
- Lophatherum gracile Brongn
- Oroxylum indicum (L.) vent (Sonapatha)
- Desmodium styracifolium Merr
- Selaginella tamariscina Spring
The ingredients are known to or are believed to hold medicinal properties. They are used to treat ailments, and bring the body back to balance.
I opened the package and dumped out the contents. Oh look what we have here..some bark, twigs, dried leaves, dried flowers…hmmm, stuff I can find at the local park! Oh, isn’t that the mulch-like stuff that playgrounds use for padding?
According to the directions, I am supposed to: Boil one packet of materials with 5 bowls of water and simmer for 2 hours. I see, looks like I am making tree juice. That sounds rather…unappetizing.
Two hours later, much of the liquid has evaporated.
Strained and ready to drink. The flavor profile is definitely herbal in nature, but also earthy. It’s slightly bitter, like really strong tea, yet it has a light mouth feel. Sugar will definitely cut down on the bitterness, but not necessary. I wonder how much I need to drink to reap the benefits, if any.