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What is Chinese "Liang Cha?"

  • Pei Sep 17, 2009 06:31 PM
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I suddenly find myself craving a particular Chinese herbal tea most commonly referred to as liang cha. Since that directly translates as "cool tea" I'm having trouble finding any good information about how to go about purchasing it.

Is this something I go to an herbal shop for? Does it come loose leaf, in bags, or is "liang cha" a generic term like "chai," wherein each herbal shop would make its own signature blend? Or is the term more specific, like "crysanthemum," where it'll pretty much taste the same wherever I go?

Something tells me I'll have better luck at herbal shops than tea shops, but perhaps I'm wrong. Any ideas, hounds?

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  1. I am assuming you've had this tea before, since you are craving it; but I don't understand why you don't know where it came from. Who served it to you?

    I'm taking a guess here. There is a herbal tea called Kam Wo tea composed of ~30 Chinese herbs. It is usually given to you when you have a fever, indigestion, etc. This might be where the informal 'cool tea' comes from. The label on the box states that it is good for many ailments. You should be able to get this at most well-stocked Chinese grocery stores. It comes in a distinctive black and white speckled box with black lettering on an orange background. It's been around for ages.

    Anyway, you could get some of that and see if that is what you are looking for.

    7 Replies
    1. re: comestibles

      I am not Chinese but have heard of your tea, it is simply a generic term for herb tea.
      It is 涼茶 meaning a cold tea. The most popluar might be the 24 tastes tea, that has various herbs to cure as many common ailments that the maker feels necessary (well, 24).

      Like the writer before me, I am curious how you come to crave this? I understand craving chocolate, but I have had chocolate.

      1. re: DallasDude

        It's something I've had growing up, but always served to me by older people or in tea shops in Asia. I've never had to find it in the US before. Thanks!

        1. re: Pei

          Well, if you are in Hong Kong there are herbal tea shops with bowls of herbal tea (liang cha) just laid out on the counter. You can pay and drink right there. In the US you may be able to find them if you have Chinese medicine shops in your area. They may not have the tea already brewed, but you can get a presciption and brew them yourself, using one of those automatic herbal tea brewers called the "silent daughter in law".

          1. re: Pei

            hello! use chowhound's recs whenever i travel but rarely post.. thought I’d chip in though because I grew up drinking liang cha too & I still like to drink it lots more than soda or juice :)

            “Liang Cha” literally means “cooling tea”, and is actually a generic name for a whole assortment of herbal teas that have a “cooling” property on the body.

            This is a traditional Chinese medicine concept and a bit complicated to explain... but basically the body is supposed to be balanced between cool and hot, like yin & yang – except that sometimes it becomes more hot because of stuff you eat etc, so it needs to be cooled down by drinking “cooling” teas. (Also different cooling teas are supposed to have different effects – like some are better for cooling the lungs, others for cooling the throat etc.)

            There are some liang cha, like chrysanthemum tea or lo han guo, which are sweet & nice to drink. The drinks manufacturers often make bottled versions of these and sometimes just label them “liang cha” rather than distinguish what type of tea it is.

            However there are also some really funky liang cha that taste extremely bitter (real 24 tastes tea is actually pretty bitter) and if you go to a Chinese pharmacy to buy liang cha without specifying what type you want, you might get one of these bitter ones instead of a nice one.

            Maybe if you could describe the taste of the liang cha you’re looking for, I might be able to figure out what it’s made from? Then you could look for the bottled versions or buy the ingredients from a Chinese pharmacy to brew.

            1. re: merilyna

              I want something that's more like ching chao cha (green grass tea) but without all the sugar in it. Basically a fairly dark tea, but not black black like some Chinese medicine, with a little bitterness and a little licorice flavor, but not overwhelmingly so. Maybe I just need a ching chao cha blend to brew myself and not add sugar?

              1. re: Pei

                Oops sorry for the massive delay in reply! It's been crazy over here.. I hope you've been able to find the answer to what you need though?

                Just in case you're still looking - "green grass tea" sounded like a pretty generic term so I did a google and found some notes on it in Chinese ("青草茶又名百草茶,取多種當地唾手可得的藥草組合而成,強調可以消除疲勞、清熱退火、生津止渴、健胃整腸及預防暑熱。這類涼茶在廣東、華南等高溫地區流行甚廣,隨先民渡海傳至台灣... 可用於百草茶的種類約有兩百多種.")

                Translating that, it says this tea (also known as "bai cao cha" or "hundred grasses tea") can be concocted from as many as 200 different types of herbs (!) and so has many possible permutations. (It's supposed to be used for reducing heat & relieving fatigue in general.) Also, it sounds like each Chinese pharmacy has its own secret combo!

                So you might have to do a lot of trial & error of store-bought stuff to get what you want.. or alternatively, some Chinese pharmacies might sell packed versions of the herbs which you can then brew and add as much / little sugar as you like.. does your local Chinese pharmacy sell anything pre-packed like that?

                Else, here's a list of the more common ingredients that you could try presenting at the pharmacy: 咸豐草, 仙草, 黃花蜜, 薄荷, 紅甜烏, 紅骨蛇, 甜珠草, 白鶴靈芝 (the taste is unique so can’t add too much of this), 桑葉 (often not used because it spoils easily), 鳳尾草 (bitter so just a little is enough), 珠仔草, 萬點金, 山苧蔴, 木棉根, 北茵陳, 甜菊... some of these apparently shouldn't be drunk if you're pregnant so do let the pharmacist know. Good luck!

        2. re: comestibles

          Well, aside from the fact we're both tea lovers, it's interesting to see you have chosen the plural form of my own screen name! Welcome. ;)

        3. Pei,

          There are more than one version of Liang Cha (cool tea). I don't know if I answered your question. You can buy Liang Cha in any Chinatown. You can even buy the mass production version in Asian supermarkets. Considering the weather is getting cold, I am not sure if this is the right time to drink Liang Cha. In addition, if you are a woman, you know what they say, women shouldn't drink too much Liang Cha. Ha ha ha.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            liangcha is just a word for teas made from herbs that cool the body due to excess heat.
            http://www.liangcha.org

            1. re: liangcha

              so would something like xia gu cao be a kind of liang cha or would it fall under a completely different category?

              1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                Yes, 夏枯草 ( xia gu cao ) is considered one of the many kinds of cool tea

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              eh?...why shouldn't women drink too much liang cha?

              1. re: iliketea

                A bit of a generalization, but it is believe that women (in general) tend toward "cool". So if a woman has a cool body, then drinking cool herbal tea isn't going to help.

                This point was actually bought up by a different post earlier.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                It's quite popular in Guangdong province, and those teas can be intensely bitter. It made me not crave anything during one glassful in Kaiping.

                Though I was able to get past one sip of that stuff, I can't stand Wong Lo Kat.

                1. re: BuildingMyBento

                  <I can't stand Wong Lo Kat.>

                  I don't think I have the original Wong Lo Kat, but the commercial ones are very tast -- sweet.

                  http://www.wantchinatimes.com/newspho...

              3. Liang Cha is chinese name for the most studied plant worldwide for its medical qualities. The english name is Forsythia. It is a shrub that can grow up to 3 meters high with beautiful yellow flowers. It has very powerful antiviral properties. I used it to rid myself of H1N1 last year in august when I visited my inlaws in China.

                1. the name for the real liang cha is forsythia and grows here. You take some of the shrub and boil it in water. I had some myself and the taste is not bad. This is the most studied shrub worldwide for its medicinal properties.