文 By: 許玉蓮 Hooi Yoke Lien
藥草茶的煮飲習慣，不只東方，西方也早在古埃及、古希臘時代將茴香、百里香、洋蔥、蒜、玫瑰花等香草植物作為藥草的處方，煎煮它們的汁液來飲用。西方將這類飲品名為Herb Tea，Herb Tea是由拉丁語herba轉變而成，源於地中海地區的古語，就是「草」的意思。1990年代期間，東方市場出現這類西方藥草茶的時候，人們將Herb Tea中文翻譯成「花草茶」，以便區別傳統上的東方「藥草茶」。「藥草茶」與「花草茶」基本原理一樣，只不過東、西方採用不同的植物原料而已。
Is there any difference between ‘herbal’ tea, as what is called in the East, and ‘floral’ tea, as what is known in the West?
In Asia, the very first herbal teas that we took would probably be those with perceived medicinal benefits. Infusions and decoctions prepared with ingredients such as chrysanthemum, ginger, beizicao were the common home remedies for minor ailments such as fever, cold, sore throat or dizziness; otherwise, herbal tea readily available from roadside stalls (such as Wanglaoji , or Wong Lo Kat) could be mom’s quick fix.
In the Cantonese dialect, liangcha is the same as ‘herbal’ tea. Both in fact refer to tisane, the non-caffeinated beverage made of dried and preserved flowers, leaves, fruits, peels, and even roots and stems with hot water. One or more of these materials could be used.
Taking ‘herbal’ tea is not something unique to the East. The use of herbs and plants such as fennel, thyme, onion, garlic and roses, among others, for medicinal decoction traces its history back to ancient Egypt and Greece. In the West, these are known as Herb Tea, having its root in the Latin word herba, and meaning ‘grass’ in old Mediterranean language. When these ‘western’ herbal teas entered the Asian market in the 1990’s, the term Herb Tea was translated into ‘floral Tea’ in Chinese in an attempt to differentiate it from the traditional herbal teas of the East. In this case, ‘herbal’ and ‘floral’ teas are basically tisanes; the only difference is the plant materials used for the infusion or decoction.
The plant materials for herbal and floral teas contribute to the properties of the beverage. Rose, jasmine, Chinese rose, saffron, plum blossom, thyme, etc, are considered to be body-warming. Chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, prunella spike, globeflower and the like are thought to be cooling. Others, such as lavender, rosemary, hibiscus, mimosa and corn silk, are considered to be neither warming nor cooling. As such, it is important to prepare these tisanes according to our body condition and constitution. Mixing and matching the herbs and flowers should be done with care; avoid using more than three at the same time to avoid the beverage becoming too stimulant.
You will be able to create your own non-caffeinated beverage at home by paying attention to the nature of different flowers and herbs, such as refreshing sour lemon, calming dried longan, naturally sweet honey, stomach-gas expelling orange peel, cooling bitter germ of the lotus seed, or slightly sweet clove with spicy aroma and a hint of medicinal scent. The beverages, with a myriad of aroma, not only spice up our life but also lend their medicinal benefits with comparatively less side effects while being more suitable for human metabolism.
You will be able to create your own non-caffeinated beverage at home by paying attention to the nature of different flowers and herbs