Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mum's Homebrewed Ginseng Herbal Teas

It is surprisingly simple to have a cuppa of herbal tea or tonic such as chrysanthemum and ginseng tea just by jiggling a tea bag in a mug of hot water. Alternatively, a couple of spoonfuls of elaborately prepared herbal extracts available at all Asian stores, dissolved in a cup of water to produce an instant drink. But not the way my mother went about it. She would've approached each preparation session with great care and ceremony, mainly because there was an on set of cold in the famliy or someone was having to sit for an important school examination. Her herbal tea was normally bought from the local "sinseh" (traditional herbalist) in which a few different kinds of dried herbs made into a combination, to produce the most bitter brew imaginable and only made drinkable with a few pieces of "shen cha" ( a sweet dried fruit leather) offered as a treat to us. My mother also collected various fruits, leaves, roots, herbs and anything else that could be concocted into medicinal brew. Many of these were kept as standby in her medicine drawer in case any of us children fell ill.

In my memory, that stained clay pot and ceremic charcoal stove was always at the same place in the corner of the kitchen and the herbal tea brewing away over a weak charcoal fire with the bitter medicinal smell permeating from the kitchen into the inner courtyard.

Mum's Ginseng Tea Brew.
2 oz. Korean Ginseng
6 cups of water.

Put the sliced ginseng and water in a non-metallic teapot and bring to boil. Decrease the heat to simmering low and brew for one and a half to two hours. (the longer the brewing time the stronger the tea.) Pour the tea into a ceramic cup and drink hot. A tiny pinch of salt or honey may be added to tone down the bitterness.

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