When I was little, my cousins and I used to raid the fridge in the back room of my grandmother’s house, stocked — just for us — with boxes of sweetened soy milk, cans of fizzy soda and drinkable cane sugar. We would grab our loot and before the adults could scold us, we would sprint out to the porch to ward off the blistering Sacramento heat with our ice-cold beverages.
These pleasant summer memories came rushing back during a trip to Malaysia. We had just eaten what felt like a years’ worth of delicious food — pungent spicy mutton stew, steaming homemade just-pinched dumplings, creamy fetid durian meat.
“Drink tea! Cool down,” my friend Matthew said, beckoning us to the pot of liquid he had stirring on the table.
Chinese people believe that if you eat too many foods that are “yeet hay” (translated: “hot air”) — fried, spicy or rich foods that can cause pimples, mouth sores and nosebleeds – you must restore your body’s balance with something “leurng” (cooling), like watermelon, grass jelly, or most commonly, Chrysanthemum tea, which is what Matthew had brewing in his pot.
I watched curiously as Matthew dropped a hunk of yellow rock sugar into the caramel-colored liquid and stirred in floating chunks of ice. Immediate recognition washed over my tongue as I sipped the sweet, refreshing tea.
Chrysanthemum tea, especially with honey (rather than sugar), is more than a simple thirst quencher. It is said to relieve fever and heatstroke, treat influenza, calm the liver, improve vision and hearing, clear headaches and dizziness, increase alertness, and combat high blood pressure.
My friend Camille also uses it when she’s suffering from a sore throat. “I dry my throat first with green tea, and then I drink it with honey, so that it coats my throat,” she says.
“The steam [from the tea] is good for your eyes,” another friend suggests. She’s heard that it can help get rid of sties. Chrysanthemum tea is also naturally caffeine free, and it tastes great hot or cold.
Try Chrysanthemum Tea:
99 Ranch Market stocks several brands of the tea in instant packets (around $4 or $5 a box) and as instant juice boxes. I conducted an informal taste test of Chrysanthemum tea amongst my friends here are our favorites:
“I’m kind of partial to the juice box.” – Kristina T.
“I like it; it’s sweet. It kind of leaves an aftertaste, but it’s a good one. It kind of tastes like candy.” – Meghan S.
2. Fortuna Instant Honeyed Chrysanthemum Drink
“It smells more like flower petals – floral with a touch of honey.” – Me
“This one has the strongest chrysanthemum taste. It even has a little menthol taste.” – Carolyn E.
3. Instant Chrysanthemum Beverage with Honey
“It’s sweeter [than #4]. You can really taste and smell the tea and honey. The chrysanthemum is really subtle.” – Kristina T.
“It’s almost a little gingery.” – Carolyn E.
4. Fragrant Chrysanthemum Tea with Honey
“This one is a little bland. But maybe we put too much water?” – Carolyn E.
“It’s not very sweet.” – Kristina T.
What childhood treat holds good memories for you?