Saturday, October 13, 2012

Old Hong Kong Cool Tea Culture

Cool Tea in Hong Kong is nothing new. In fact it has been part of the life of Hong Kong Cantonese for centuries. However traditional cool tea shops are close to extinct.

The other day I was exploring the restaurants in Soho, the next day I continue to explore Hollywood Road and found one of the endangered cool tea shops.

Herbal tea shops in Hong Kong had been very popular especially during the 60s when TVs were expensive.  I remember when I was a kid, we like to go to nearby cool tea shops, sat there for an hour or so to enjoy a cup of cool tea and at the same time watching television.  Nowadays, life pace is fast, people just walk by the shops, place a few dollars on the table, drink and go.  Of course they can still choose to sit down and drink, but there are no televisions in the shops.

Traditional Cool Tea Shop at Hollywood Road Hong Kong
My Sesame Drink was only HK$8
Cool teas are not necessarily cool in terms of temperature.  To be more realistic, they are kind of Chinese herbal tea mainly derived from tradition and culture.

But why cool tea is called cool tea while it is not cool?  It is believed that these herbal teas will provide cooling effect to the body, hence some of the minor defects could be cured without consulting a doctor, such as sore throats, flu, hangover or ailments. 

There are many kinds of cooling tea. Most popular being 5-Flower Tea, 24-Taste, sugar cane juice, sesame drink. The 24-Taste is actually quite bitter.  But as they are believed to be good to our bodies, it remains very popular among people of all ages.  You can find these in almost any cool tea shop.  The price is usually between HK$6 and 8 per cup/bowl.  The other day my sesame drink at Hollywood Road was only HK$8, not cool but iced, providing very good hydrating and cooling effect under the mid day sun.

Middle photo - the 5-Flower Tea costs HK$7 per bowl

Right photo - 楊春雷 in Wanchai
Although traditional herbal tea shops are close to extinction, the culture of drinking cool tea remains popular among Hong Kong Cantonese.  New generation cool tea shops are everywhere in the city.  However if you want to have an old Hong Kong feel and drink a cup of cool tea at a very traditional cool tea shop, here are the two oldest in my knowledge:  春回堂at the corner of Stanley Street and Graham Street in Central; 楊春雷at Spring Garden Street in Wanchai.  The one at Hollywood Road is also very old, but I don’t recall it’s name.

春回堂 on Stanley Street
See people just pay, drink and go

New Generation Cool Tea Shop
The new generation cool tea shops usually sell Turtle Puddings on top of the traditional cool teas.  They also sell bottled cool tea for take away.

Hong Kong Food Blog - Old Hong Kong Cool Tea Culture

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