OK, I cheated. Blogging live from Taiwan, this is not a post about food, but rather about "teas" that are unlike any tea one can have anywhere else in the world (except perhaps regions of China or Singapore with similar traditions). Seeing the local Taiwanese drink their traditional Chinese herbal teas as a ready-to-drink beverage (step aside, soda!) anywhere & anytime makes me really want to drink some tea. This is why Traditional Chinese Herbal Tea claims the #2 spot on my top 10 list of Taiwanese foods that make me want to drink tea.
Chinese herbal teas really don't contain any tea, traditionally made with the plant Camellia Sinensis. Instead, they are made with a series of herbs (see picture below) with very particular properties, or medicinal benefits. By the way, if you are interested in learning more about medicinal teas and their Chinese medicine background, make sure to check out our upcoming October Tea is Medicine class in Berkeley and our organic Root Berry Tonic for a tea inspired by Chinese medicine.
Chinese herbal teas usually taste bitter or slightly sweet, and typically dark brown or black as shown below in pre-bottled containers in the fridge. They take hours to brew, which is why you see them pre-bottled with this particular vendor. When a customer orders a cup, they are then poured into a cup to be taken to go, and enjoyed cold given the extreme heat & humidity in the summer.
The medicinal properties range from the alleviation of a sore throat, curing of colds, and general "cooling" or "heating" of the body pending the body properties. The list below shows some common herb combinations and benefits, including such appetizing names like "bitter tea". :) No pain, no gain, right?