Barley is a grain that’s often used in porridge or for desserts, thanks to its creamy texture and sweet flavour. Once you roast those pearly grains, however, barley turns into something completely different. Ever heard of Mugicha in Japan? Well, that’s tea made with toasted barley grains. Barley Tea is a traditional East Asian remedy for hot weather and a heaty constitution. By making it yourself at home, you can control the amount of toastiness, as well as ensure that you’re using good-quality barley grains.
Toast 2 cups pearl barley grains in a dry pan on a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the grains are evenly toasted and brown all over.
Simmer the toasted barley in 1.5 litres water for 10-15 minutes, until you have a lightly fragrant tea. Serve hot or cold.
People around the world turn to honey for an immunity boost when they’re feeling under the weather, but the addition of ginseng can help supercharge your health. In Asia, ginseng has long been prized as a potent medicinal ingredient that can improve your health, immunity, memory, vitality and energy. There are a number of types of ginseng, but for a powerful energy boost, you want to look at Korean red ginseng or Asian ginseng. Infusing honey with ginseng creates an almost-magic potion that you can enjoy easily.
Stir equal amounts of shaved dry ginseng and good-quality honey together, storing it in a jar to infuse for 1-3 weeks. When you need a little boost, dissolve a spoonful of the mixture in warm water. For even more energy, dissolve the ginseng honey in some green tea for a gentle caffeine jolt.
You might be more familiar with the mulberry fruit, a sweet, tart juicy berry similiar to raspberries and blackberries. The leaves though, make for a delightful tea, especially when combined with mint leaves.
The Chinese have long relied on mulberry leaves, not only to feed the silkworms that create one of China’s greatest historical exports, but to maintain their health. Although traditionally used, they’ve become a buzzy superfood again, especially among people looking for help lowering their blood pressure, or for that extra push in weight loss.
The active ingredient in mulberry leaves, called sang ye in Chinese, is 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ), which could help to block the absorption of too many carbohydrates.
Infused dried white mulberry leaves in hot water as loose leaf tea, or mix with fresh or dried mint for a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)-inspired herbal tea blend.
With an elegant floral fragrance, osmanthus buds are most often used in Chinese desserts, but they’re also a wonderful ingredient to add to a herbal tea. Like other flowers in TCM, osmanthus is thought to help cool the body, detoxify and cleanse the body, and improve the skin.
Mix equal parts of osmanthus buds and dried rosebuds together for a simple complexion-boosting tea blend. Add some dried lavender buds for an extra touch of stress relief. Simply infuse 1 teaspoon of the dried flower tea in a cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes, and you’ve got a lovely, floral treat. Alternatively, mix dried osmanthus into some loose leaf oolong tea for a special tea blend that will gently boost your wellbeing.
There’s no getting around the fact that liquorice is an acquired taste: you either love it or hate it. But compared with black liquorice candy, liquorice root tea gives you a milder flavour experience. Liquorice root is also frequently used in TCM blends, so there are its health benefits to recognise too.
For a simple TCM tonic, steep 5g of sliced licorice root and 5g of Jie Geng (radix platycodi) in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes. This blend is thought to dissolve phlegm and soothe a sore throat, a common affliction of life in an urban setting. However, do bear in mind that liquorice root is not suitable for those with high blood pressure.
While many ingredients are recognised as ‘heaty’ or ‘cooling’ in TCM, Goji berries are considered ‘neutral’, which makes them the perfect addition to soups and herbal teas. Traditionally believed to be a key to longevity, Goji berries (also known as wolfberries) are known to be chock full of antioxidants, which means they’re no longer confined to Asian medicine, and can be found in smoothies and acai bowls the world over.
Goji berries are an ideal introduction to the world of herbal teas, especially for children, thanks to their sweet and tangy flavour. When blended with jujube dates in a herbal tea, they make a lovely concoction that’s great for replenishing the blood and boosting energy – so ladies, you know what to do when that time of the month is approaching. And when it’s such an easy tea to make and drink, you can’t go wrong.
Jujube, or red dates, are often found in Chinese sweet dessert soups, so you would be forgiven for overlooking their medicinal properties. However, these little parcels of sweetness are used in TCM to regulate qi, nourish the blood, calm the mind and boost immunity. They’re especially loved by women who turn to red dates for regulating their hormones.
Like Goji berries, they have a sweet and pleasant flavour, making them the perfect gateway ingredient to herbal teas. Red dates lean towards being ‘heaty’ in nature, so while those who have ‘heaty’ constitutions should use them with discretion, they’re an essential part of traditional Chinese confinement after birth, imparting warming nutrition to new mothers.
Use Jujube in conjunction with Goji berries in the recipe below for a yummy and healthy treat that the whole family will love.
Simmer 4 jujube dates and ½ cup Goji berries in 500ml water for 20-30 minutes. Strain and enjoy.
If you’re using this recipe to regulate your hormones, make sure to drink it before or after that time of the month, but not during.
Also known as mung beans, green beans are a powerhouse of plant-based protein. These little beans are used in different styles of cooking around the world, but they also have medicinal properties that make them a great addition to a herbal tea habit.
Boil 1 cup of mung beans in 2 cups water for 20 minutes, straining and adding honey or rock sugar to taste for a traditional mung bean tea.
A great source of potassium and magnesium, two elements that are often missing in today’s diet, green beans may help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. In TCM, green beans are believed to fight off damp heat and are often recommended by Chinese doctors in the summer. With the hot weather we have here in Southeast Asia, these little beans should have a space on every kitchen counter.
Sometimes called the ‘magic fruit’ or ‘longevity fruit’, luo han guo, or monk fruit, is a small green melon native to China and traditionally associated with the Buddhist monks who first cultivated it. In recent years, luo han guo has gained plenty of attention as a sugar alternative. It’s around 200 times sweeter than sugar, which means you can get the same sweet flavour with zero calories.
Traditionally, luo han guo is prized as a heat-dissipating ingredient, making it perfect for hot days and sore throats. This fruit is used by TCM doctors to keep the lungs and airways healthy, making it an important ally for maintaining health. Use luo han guo in conjunction with chrysanthemum for a double dose of ‘cooling’ power.
One of the most well-known herbal tea ingredients, chrysanthemum is so popular that you can even find it as a canned drink. However, making your own chrysanthemum tea is a great way to ensure the quality of what you’re consuming, as well as tailoring the tea blend to your needs.
Chrysanthemum is thought to help cool the body down, as well as cleanse the liver and improve eyesight, which should certainly appeal to most of us who work in front of a computer. Make a simple blend of equal parts chrysanthemum flowers and green tea leaves for all-day sipping, or mix chrysanthemum with luo han guo in the recipe below for the ultimate cooling companion.
Thanks to the luo han guo, this tea is naturally sweet, but without the dangers of sugar. Serve this warm or keep a batch in the fridge for a cooling treat.
Crack open 1 dried luo han guo fruit, and place in a pot with 2 litres water. Bring to a boil, mashing the fruit gently. Add 25g dried chrysanthemum, and 25g dried longan if you like, and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain, and sweeten to taste with rock sugar if desired.