Chinese herb tea
|Chinese herb tea|
|Literal meaning||cool tea|
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2009)|
Chinese herb(al) tea, also known as medicinal herbal tea, is a kind of tea-soup made from purely Chinese medicinal herbs in Guangdong (Kwangtung), China. It usually tastes bitter or lightly sweet and its colour is typically black or dark brown, depending on what kinds of herbs are used. Although it is referred to as "tea", it seldom contains any part of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), and is considered a tisane or "herbal tea".
The climate of Guangdong is sub-tropical, with a primarily hot and humid climate. Cantonese people boil what are referred to as cooling herbs in Traditional Chinese medicine to made herbal tea, which is consumed in order to relieve the heat and humidity in the body. Therefore, Chinese herb tea is referred to as cold tea or cooling tea in the Chinese language.
There are many kinds of cooling tea. Different kinds of tea are purported to cure or relieve a variety of diseases. Some teas are consumed to alleviate sore throats, some for flu, and others for a number of ailments.
Cooling tea is quite popular in Guangdong, Macau and Hong Kong, as well as other subtropical locales. Many families make their tea at home. Some families are herb tea specialists who open their own shops, selling different kinds of herbal tea. Some shops have been open for 150 years in Guangzhou and 50–60 years in Hong Kong. It is not hard to find these shops in Hong Kong.
In 1990s and 2000s, cold tea has been bottled, canned or boxed by some herbal tea specialists and is being sold in supermarkets in Asia and Asian markets overseas as fewer and fewer families have time to make them at home. These products are usually sweetened and do not have their original flavours.
History of Chinese herbal tea
The history of herbal teas started at the 350 A.D. There was a person called Lu Yu (陸羽) writing a Chinese scroll on a parchment which titled ‘The Classic of Tea’ (茶經) that included cultivation, processing, and uses of tea. But the first cup of tea was born in the following accident before. In 2737 B.C, there was a Chinese Emperor named Shen-Nung (神農)was boiling some water. He used a common method to purify the water. Some leafs from a bush nearby are unexpectedly blown into the pot boiling water. He did not see that and covered the pot. He then smelled the scent of the brew. Therefore, he tried once of it. This was the first born of teas and turned into herbal teas afterward by using various kinds of leaves contained of medical values. Shen-Nung also wrote a book entitled ‘Shénnóng Běn Cǎo Jīng’ (神農本草經). The book stated that "Shennong tasted hundreds of herb, he encountered seventy two poisons daily and used tea as an antidote". The book includes the uses and function of herbs.
Functions of Chinese herbal tea
The natural herbal teas in China have been used to help boost health of human bodies physically and mentally and also heal or prevent illness that are the main aspects of health benefits and medical uses for Chinese. People therefore increase their immunity and keep healthy gradually. Also, it includes antioxidant properties that have positive medicinal effects on human bodies.
The ingredients of herbal teas are mainly fresh dried flowers, leaves, seeds or roots, and grains. Those ingredients are easily found in the nature among worldwide. Once the medical values inside the herb are discovered and confirmed by official organizations, the herb would be made as an herbal tea serving us with medical functions.
Comparison of Chinese Herb Tea and Western Medicine
|Chinese Herb Tea||Western Medicine|
|Historical development||• Part of Chinese heritage dating back more than thousands of years||• Developed over the past 200 years for modern medical science|
|Approach||• Adopts an inductive and synthetic approach||• Adopts reductive and analytical approach|
|Basis||• Relies on experience over time through numerous trials and clinical observations
• Make reference to ancient books such as ‘Book of Change’ (易經), ‘Emperor Internal Canon’ (皇帝內經)
• Philosophical such as yin-yang(陰陽), five elements (gold, wood, water, fire and earth), qis(氣), seasons etc
|• Based on standards and evidence from researches
• Make reference to recent scientific and technological development
|Diagnosis||• Look at the human body as a whole with fully interconnected system. Organs are coordinating with one another.
• Diseases are caused by an imbalance of the internal harmony of the body
• Four diagnostic methods include ‘inspection, listening and smelling, interrogation and palpation
• Difficult to understand and dependent on the experience of the doctor
|• Scientific knowledge such as germ theory, virus, DNA, anatomy etc. to explain the cause of diseases
• Concentrate on specific parts of the body and the symptoms of diseases
• Abundance of tools such as X-ray, scan etc to help identify infected organs
• Easy to understand as organs are clearly defined
|Treatment||• Mainly use herb tea to treat patients for instance, ‘fire’ of a patient can be treated by Chinese herb tea to remove ‘heat’
• Strengthen the overall immunity of the patient to expel the germ
• Herbs are made from plants and come from nature.
• Herb tea have less side effects as prescription usually combine different herbs to supplement each other and counteract undesirable effects
|• Depends on drug or surgery to treat patient
• Focus on causes of disease and aim at specific target to eradicate diseases, eg. Killing bacteria and cancer cells but healthy cell might be killed too.
• Drugs are often composed of synthetic and chemical substances to suppress symptoms
• Drugs have side effects, ranging from mild to severe
|Strength and weakness||• Focus on prevention and management of chronic illness, and the recognition of the importance of lifestyle and the mind/body connection.
• The biological or chemical process taking place for the ‘harmonisation’ is not easy to verify.
• Not making full use of the advance in medical instruments
• Not as sophisticated as western medicine in the specialisation and division of medical professionals
|• Focus on treating structural trauma and defects, as well as address life-threatening illnesses that require medical or surgical intervention.
• Medical science is organised systematically and the treatment process is substantiated by scientific knowledge.
• Inventions of instruments (such as X ray, Computed Axial Tomography etc) for treatment and diagnosis have greatly enhanced people’s understanding of diseases.
• Abuse on the use of antibiotics lead to drug resistant diseases for humans while over exposure to radiation brought by new technology increase the risk of cancer
• Advance in medical technologies leads to an escalating medical cost for drugs and treatment
|Goals of treatment||• ‘Cure’ oriented to restore the balance of the body and hence tailored made for individual patient||• ‘Remove the symptoms’ oriented and standardised treatment for people with similar symptoms|
|Role of doctor||• Play ‘supporting’ role to help patient prevent diseases||• Similar to that of a mechanic, to fix what is broken and find things that are wrong|
Relationship Between Chinese Herb Tea and Chinese Identity
Needless to say, Chinese herb tea is described as wisdom crystal of China because of its multi-curative functions. It is also viewed as an intangible cultural heritage which is supposed to be preserved and promoted actively.In Chinese traditional culture, harmonious relationship between human being and nature is highly pursued. Integrating human being into nature (tianrenheyi) is deemed as the ultimate goal in traditional philosophy so human being is part of nature indeed. Such concept can be applied to understand how Chinese herb tea refers to Chinese identity.
All the ingredients of Chinese herb tea can be directly found from nature and used without purification or any complex chemical reactions so Chinese herb tea is symbolized as nature. Natural characteristic of Chinese herb tea implies that Chinese people is advocator of nature in the traditional belief. It is believed that they can merge with nature and thus utilize the powerful impact of nature for defense against disease and maintenance of health by intake of Chinese herb tea.This way of thinking demonstrates what Gabaccia (1998) call we are what we eat. Chinese herb tea not only represents Chinese understanding of medical science and nature but also reflects their collective identity which is aspiration for natural integration and oneness.
Besides, traditional Chinese herb tea shops are family-run business and have been passed down from generation to generation. This business model signifies the significant of family in Chinese philosophy. In this regards, family plays an essential role in preservation and accumulation of Chinese herb tea culture before modernization of Chinese herb tea. For these reasons, its contribution towards Chinese herb tea cannot be neglected.
Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage
Protection of the intangible cultural heritage was an international issue. In 2003, UNESCO established an International Convention to protect these heritages, which acted as the basis in international law for many other countries. China also approved this convention in 2004.
In 2006, the governments of Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau jointly applied the Chinese herb tea as the Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Chinese herb tea successfully passed the first round examination and became No. 439 under the category of traditional handicrafts in the protection list. After status recognition of it under international approval, its representative for Chinese characteristic became well known around the world. This facilitated its modernization and globalization into other countries.
According to the assessment criteria, this implied that the country recognized the Chinese herb tea’s outstanding and unique value to show Chinese traditional culture. The Chinese herb tea was guided by Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory (TCM) and used herbs as raw material to conclude a prescription. Over hundreds year, it associated with Chinese’s daily life. It was part of the Chinese food culture.
Modernization of Chinese Herb Tea
• Traditional Business Mode: Hawking
The traditional business mode of herb tea was selling on four-wheel trolleys that raise a glass lamp. Two large teapots were installed on the trolley and many teacups and stands were placed in front of the frame. In the impression, there was usually an old man who wore short blouse and pants peddling continuously. After the baptism of decades, the old traditional hawking model has been eliminated.
• Modern Business Mode
Currently, many herb tea companies adopt one stop management that covers the production and sales. This management strategy emphasis on standardized and specialized chain management as well as strict quality control. These modern production lines and complete sterilized facilities have fully replaced the old-fashioned crock and form the modern business model of herb tea.
• Variety Choices of Herb Tea
Besides modern business mode, the essence and effectiveness of herb tea are the most important elements in operating a successful herb tea enterprise. According to the modern dietary habits, enterprises improve those traditional recipes according to different seasons. They produce more than a dozen varieties herb tea, such as Fructus Cannabis (火麻仁), that suitable for those who afraid of bitter taste. In addition, as to further expand its consumer base, herb tea produce into paper canned packaging, which are more convenience and meet customer needs.
• Young People Emphasis on Health Care
Herb tea has a long history in China. It also known as medicinal herbal tea, which is a kind of tea-soup made from purely Chinese medicinal herbs in Guangdong. The drink is made to drive away the heat inside the human body in summer or to cure the sore throat caused by dryness in winter and other illnesses. Youngers receive these traditions and messages from their families and we can now observe that many customers are young people. Besides, as higher occurrence of cardiovascular diseases and cancers in younger age group, more people concern on health care issues and thereby stimulate their consumption inclination.
• The Modernization illustrates by “Wanglaoji Herbal Tea”
The famous brand of herb tea in china called “Wanglaoji Herbal Tea” launched by Wang Zebang from Heshan in 1828. In the very beginning, the Chinese herb tea can only provided by the shop on the street. It is used to be prepared, when someone orders, the Chinese herb tea will serve in a traditional bowl, and the customers will need to finish it before leaving. When Chinese herbal tea becomes more popular, the demand is way higher than the supply .It is because producing a Chinese herbal tea needs couples of hours. Obviously, it cannot fulfill the demand of the market immediately. This way of producing Chinese herbal tea needs a change, in an advance way. After that, Wang Zebang has a new idea to sell Chinese herbal tea. He decided to design packets of herbal tea bag. Customers can buy the herbal tea bag and boil it by themselves. This is the initial stage industrialization of Chinese herbal tea. As technology growing really fast, the way of producing Chinese herbal tea was affected. Chinese herb tea was made in a pack of granulation(涼茶精)which is easy to be served, no need to boil for couple hours before it served, but to be taken dissolved in boiling water. Producing Chinese herbal tea in such standardization is a trend. Later, “Wanglaoji invents a new way to sell Chinese herb tea, in canned. In 1990s and 2000s, Chinese herb tea has been bottled, canned or boxed by some herbal tea specialists and is being sold in supermarkets in Asia and overseas as fewer and fewer families have time to make them at home. The modernization of herbal tea has change its market, without a doubt, global marketing. It sales cover nearly 20 countries, including China, the US, Canada and France etc. There’s a wide variety of cool herbal tea drinks to choose, such as mulberry and chrysanthemum drink, lotus leaf drink and fresh lotus root drink etc.
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