The art of brewing herbal tea in China dates back to 5,000 years ago. Over the centuries, many herbs with medicinal properties were discovered and used for wellness purposes. Importing the culture from China to Kuching, Khee Hiang Traditional Herbal Tea Shop has been serving teas made of original recipes from the olden days.
Healthy, refreshing, lucrative
Tea in China is a lucrative brew. Many have made profits from the leaves. The history of tea brewing in China actually dated back to 5,000 years ago. Through research, it was determined that the Chinese tea culture began around year 2,737 BC.
According to China’s cultural history, the second mythical emperor of China, Shen Nung was said to have introduced tea brewing during his time between 3,220 BC to 3,080 BC.
History concluded that the emperor taught the ancient Chinese the practices of agriculture and the use of herbal drugs.
His far-sighted edicts required, among other things, that all drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution.
As a practitioner of plants and herbs, during one summertime, a leaf from the Camellia Senensis tree accidentally dropped into his boiling pot of water and a brown substance was infused in it. As a scientist, the emperor was interested in the new liquid, drank some, and found it very refreshing.
According to legends, Shen Nung — loosely translated from Chinese as ‘Agriculture God’ — named the brew “ch’a”, the Chinese character meaning to check or investigate.
Back in the day, tea was consumed for its medicinal properties. With a mixture of different herbal plants, the Chinese drink tea for its nutritional purposes or as an antidote for poison.
In China, tea is actually drunk more frequently for healthy living than it is for thirst.
Aside from that, drinking tea is known to aid digestion, hence why the Chinese prefer to drink tea after their meals. Up until today, tea is used for many health and wellness. Among them are to enhance body functions, soothe the emotions and others.
In 350 AD, it was written that the consumption of tea consisted of leaves boiled with ginger, orange and others for flavouring.
In the interior parts of China, people compress tea leaves into bricks and use it as a currency for barter. The demand for tea leaves increased tremendously and farmers started growing tea at various plantations.
Medicinal tea in Kuching, Sarawak
Located at a block of a century-old building in Padungan, Khee Hiang Traditional Herbal Tea Shop brews its tea using recipes passed down from generations. The shop first opened in the 1930s and the owners (now second and third generation) explained that the brewing process could take them up to three hours.
Nolan Chang shared that the ingredients and process are still maintained the way it was since his great grandfather’s time in Shantou, Guangdong, China. “He used to be a Chinese physician in China, going from village to village to cure people with medicinal herbs.”
His grandfather then migrated from China and settled down in Kuching back in the 30s. “Back then, he used to brew it with charcoal and the whole process could take him up to five hours before the tea is ready to be served.”
Types of tea
Khee Hiang serves three types of tea to soothe the body from inner heat. They have Ba Xian Cha (non-bitter), Qing Ku Cha (less bitter), and Feng Huo Cha (bitter). Nolan said that that the latter is the most popular despite its bitterness because it is the most effective among the three.
They also serve medicinal tea concoction called Pei Yao Cha. There are two different mixtures for this tea. One to cure flu, fever, cough, sore throat, ulcer and constipation, and another to cure diarrhoea, stomach problem and tonsil inflammation.
According to Nolan, some of the basic ingredients they use in their herbal tea are Prunella Vulgaris (Xia Kucao), Common Lophatherum Herb (Dan Zhu Ye), Ranunculus Japonicus (Mao Gen) and Siraitia Grosvenorii (Luo Han Guo). Each of these hold different properties to invigorate the body.
“These days, we use gas stove instead of charcoal. We would brew the tea in a medium-small heat to slowly boil the ingredients together. It takes around three hours to boil each tea we serve here,” added Nolan.