Chinese Cooling Tea

Contextual Data: I came home to my roommate boiling this loose-leaf tea on the stove. It was unlike most teas that I had seen before — there seemed to be sticks and roots poking out of it and it was almost an opaque black. She mentioned that it was a kind of herbal remedy and I asked her to explain to me a bit more about what it was and where she learned about it and why she was drinking it. The following is a transcript of her response.

“So what it is, is just this concoction of, like, all these different roots and herbs and dried things… I dunno, but after you—they’re, like, dried and aged and after you boil it in hot water for, like, uh, maybe like…just until it boils. Maybe like thirty minutes. It turns into this really weird black concoction and then it comes in, like…uh, different bitterness. So like the bitterer—the more bitter and more, like, black it is, the better it is for you. And then there are also, like, the really, like, light ones that you just put like sugar in and it tastes just like a sugary herbal tea drink. And then, um… So what it’s called trans—directly translated into English is called ‘cooling tea.’ And… um…So cooling tea. It comes from this whole theory in China—in Chinese. We just believe that there’s like a yin and a yang to everything that you eat. So we think that, um, that there’s things that are really hot and there’s things that are really cool. And then, um, if you have too many hot things you’ll, like, have—break out in acne, you’ll get a sore throat, and then you’ll get sick. And if you have too many cool things, then also bad things will happen to you. I dunno what, though. And so, and there’s also things like, because my mom made a lot of cool things when I was, like—when she was pregnant with me. Lots of like watermelons, and cucumbers are cool, and like Korean pears are cool. And then like chocolate and deep fried things and stuff would be like hot things. And like mangoes would be hot. So I have a cool base inside of me, so I can eat a lot of hot things and I’ll still be okay. But then if your mom ate a lot of hot things when you were… she was pregnant with you…and then you have a hot base, and then you can’t—you have to eat like a lot of cool things to like counteract that. So it’s just this whole balance between it. And so this cool—this cooling tea is just when I think I have like a sore throat or I just feel like… [Laughs.] There is really no scientific background to it. But I—and I’m like pre-med so I believe in science, but I also believe in this, ‘cause after I drink it I feel a lot better. I guess it’s like placebo effect, but I get—I feel a lot better after I drink this, uh, black herbal tea.”

End Transcript – 

My informant did a fairly thorough job of explaining the significance of this herbal remedy. It is interesting to note that as a pre-Med student, she values science and scientific proof for different practices, but that she does still believe in the tea as a type of medicine, which can point to the either the value of the placebo effect or the fact that while herbal remedies may not have any scientific backing, they can still be valid and useful. The fact that it does seem to work is a big part of the reason why her family taught it to her and why she still makes it and drinks it.