Cantonese: Growing up with Herbal Tea

Guangdong is a province in southern China located in a sub-tropical zone. The high temperatures and humidity can cause bacterial and fungal growth, meaning that people tend to become dehydrated with a tendency to suffer from heat stroke, skin rashes, diarrhea and infectious diseases. Local residents prepare various refreshing drinks to cope with the rigors of their environment.

People in Southern China have been drinking "cooling tea" for over two centuries. In addition to the common heat - clearing herbs, people like to use local ingredients, and brew according to their own preferences. At first, people brought the herbal ingredients back home and cooked them themselves; Local people learn which kind of tea to drink for which condition from childhood; gradually, herbal shops began to provide ready-made forms for convenience. Parents often remind their children to drink some herbal tea in shops if they don't have time to make some at home. In the early days, these drinks were effective and affordable remedies for ordinary people to treat and prevent disease.

Due to their general healing benefits, herbalists use many ingredients to prepare their herbal teas. A typical tea called "Twenty-four Flavor Tea" is claimed to have over 20 kinds of herbal ingredients. There are no standard prescriptions, and often herbal shops keep their recipes secret. Recipes may alter ingredients due to the particular time of year.

Today, these traditional teas still remain popular folk remedies in southern China. These natural fresh drinks are not only able to protect against climatic influences, but also aim at relieving aliments caused by stressful urban lifestyles. Below are common teas found in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao:

Twenty-four Flavors Tea ( 廿四味 )
Over 20 kinds of herbs are used in this tea with many of them only grown in southern China. This is a very bitter tea used for excessive fire in the body and is helpful to many aliments. The brew helps to alleviate sore throat, high fever, common cold and flu, inflammations, hypertension and skin problems.

Dampness Expelling Tea ( 去濕茶 )
The main ingredients include Indian bread, waterplantian rhizome, white mulberry root-bark, fresh ginger and tangerine peel. This beverage induces urination to facilitate dampness and the elimination of toxins. It can relieve fatigue, head and limb heaviness, promote appetite and manage body weight.

Five Flowers Tea ( 五花茶 )
The main floral ingredients are honeysuckle, chrysanthemum, silk cotton, Plumeria rubra and Pueraria lobata. This beverage can clear heat and expel dampness and anti-inflammation, which helps to alleviate symptoms like fatigue, sore throat, indigestion, poor appetite, insomnia and urinary difficulty.

Selfheal Spike Tea ( 夏枯草 )
Selfheal Spike is an ingredient used to clear liver fire. Other herbs used in this beverage may include Fructus Momordicae, liquorice and pagoda tree flower. It is usually drunk to prevent hepatitis and heat stroke in summer; it also relieves symptoms like crusty lips, hoarseness, blood shoot eyes, excessive secretion in the eyes, irritability, constipation, headache and bone aching.

Sugar Cane and Lalang Grass Rhizoma Tea ( 竹蔗茅根水 )
Sugar cane aids lubrication and promote body fluid production, Lalang grass rhizome cools the blood and clears away heat by inducing urination. This beverage helps to replenish body fluids and clears dryness and heat symptoms such as thirst, mouth sores, dry throat, bad breath, crusty lips, nasal bleeding and scanty urine.

Flu Tea ( 感冒茶 )
Many ingredients can be used in this tea such as the lophatherum herb, fermented soybean, isatis root, loquat leaf, honeysuckle, Fructus Forsythiae, Herba Schizonepetae, basket fern and Houttuynia, which makes it taste very bitter. It is recommended when you have early symptoms of cold or flu such as heaviness in the forehead, fatigue, general weakness and slightly runny nose.