Ever passed by one of those Chinese herbal tea shops and wondered what they were selling? Here are some of the most popular local herbal drinks that you should try.
There is just something special about Cantonese food. While it might not look the most extravagant – think Cantonese desserts and street food in Hong Kong – you’ll probably find that much of it is surprisingly delicious and addictive. Instead of taking you on a Hong Kong food tour this time, we’re teaching you how to hunt down some the best Chinese herbal teas in the city – even though they all look the same shade of brownish black.
Chinese herbal teas that are popular in Hong Kong
1. 24 Flavours Tea (廿四味)
Why’s it called 24 Flavours Tea? Because it’s a mixture of around 24 ingredients, although sometimes as few as ten or as many as 28. As one of the most commonly seen Chinese herbal teas in Hong Kong, the 24 Flavours Tea is great to aid digestion, alleviate sore throats and common colds, and it helps clear toxins and “internal heat” (yeet hei) in the body.
2. Spica Prunellae (夏枯草)
Spica Prunellae is known for lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as for treating liver fire and conjunctival congestion. While a lot of Chinese herbal teas are described as bitter and dull, Spica Prunellae is one of our personal favourites in terms of flavour, as it carries a subtle sweetness. It’s probably the best one to start your journey into the world of Chinese herbal teas in Hong Kong.
3. Five Flower Tea (五花茶)
A staple in traditional Chinese medicine, five flower tea is a blend treasured for its soothing and restorative properties. Containing chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, red cotton, coltsfoot, and sweet chrysanthemum buds, this sweet herbal infusion helps detoxify the liver, boost immunity, improve vision, and prevent heat stroke. Hong Kongers have long turned to five flower teas as a gentle health tonic, consuming them regularly to balance the body’s systems.
4. Rorippa Indica (野葛菜)
Valued for its soothing properties, Rorippa Indica is made from wild watercress. With a flavour reminiscent of watercress soup, this infusion helps dissolve phlegm, ease coughs, and reduce internal heat. A touch of monk fruit sometimes adds sweetness, but the subtle herbal notes shine when left unsweetened. When Hong Kong’s humidity stokes coughs and throat discomfort, you can rely on Rorippa Indica’s traditional formulation for gentle relief.
5. Canton Abrus Herb (雞骨草)
Known as “chicken bone grass” for the appearance of its curved seed pods, Canton Abrus Herb is celebrated for its ability to dispel dampness and heat from the body. Often utilised in the treatment of jaundice and other damp-heat related conditions, a brew of Canton Abrus Herb tea can offer relief by clearing the liver and alleviating any discomfort in the chest and ribs. Though beneficial for certain cases of internal heat, those with deficiency conditions are advised to either avoid Canton Abrus Herb tea, or consult a healthcare professional before consumption.
6. Monk Fruit Tea (羅漢果茶)
Naturally sweet, monk fruit (aka luo han guo) is loved by many Chinese households for its health benefits, such as curing sore throats and coughs. Since it is believed to have cooling effects, it is widely consumed by Chinese during summer. Although it tastes very sweet, monk fruit contains barely any carbs and calories, thus your insulin levels will not rocket after drinking.
7. Detox and Dampness Clearing Tea (去濕茶)
A potent blend of white mulberry, dried tangerine peel, and ginger, the Detox and Dampness Clearing Tea targets the concept of “dampness” – an excessive retention of water thought to trigger various illnesses. This tea works by stimulating the spleen, enhancing the body’s capacity to eliminate excess moisture and accumulated toxins. For those struggling with poor appetite, fatigue, acne, or bloating, this light infusion offers an aromatic remedy.
8. Fire Hemp Seed Tea (火麻仁茶)
Rich in monounsaturated fat, protein, and vitamin E, fire hemp seeds are believed to have many health benefits. Constipation prevention, anti-aging, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases – just to name a few. Moreover, fire hemp seeds have been used as Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years, and are still loved by many Chinese medicine practitioners today.
9. White Sugar Cane Tea (白茅根茶)
A popular summertime drink in Hong Kong, White Sugar Cane Tea provides a sweet, refreshing way to cool excess internal heat. It has cooling properties to relieve sore throats, coughs, nosebleeds, and other signs of heat. Made from mugwort root, this liang cha clears heat in the body while replenishing its fluids.
10. Chrysanthemum Tea (銀菊露)
At the heart of this potent brew is the chrysanthemum flower, widely revered in traditional medicine for its heat-clearing, detoxifying, and Yin-nourishing properties. For Hong Kongers prone to sore throats, fever, or dryness, sipping warm Chrysanthemum Tea provides gentle relief. With its subtle sweetness and pretty petals, Chrysanthemum Tea conjures memories of healing remedies passed down through generations.
11. Guilinggao (龜苓膏)
Also known as tortoise jelly, Guilinggao is a traditional Chinese dessert and medicine that’s been treasured for centuries for its wide-ranging health benefits. According to legend, the Tongzhi Emperor’s smallpox was cured by this formula until he prematurely stopped the treatment. While tortoise shell was originally one of the key ingredients in the ancient and authentic recipe for Guilinggao, it’s been increasingly replaced by agar in modern versions due to the ethical concerns around sourcing the rare shells. The rich brown jelly may be bittersweet, but do give it a try – it’s believed to improve your circulation, muscle growth, skin complexion, and kidney function!
Great shops to buy Chinese herbal tea in Hong Kong
1. Herbaceous Tea
Bringing artisanal herbal brews to Hong Kong since 2013, Herbaceous Teas handcrafts premium infusions designed to restore wellness. Using only top-grade herbs and time-honoured formulations, the liang cha shop expertly selects and combines ingredients for optimal potency. Its freshly made teas provide traditional remedies for modern life, prepared locally on a daily basis.
Herbaceous Tea has multiple stores across Hong Kong.
2. Chau Ka Yuen Herbal Tea
This Chinese herbal tea shop is a family business established over a half-century ago. Everyday, the shop owner carefully washes the herbs and prepares everything all by hand, earning Chau Ka Yuen many loyal customers. While drinks like the twelve-hour boiled Canton Abrus Herb Tea and 24 Flavours Tea are customers’ all-time favourites, Chau Ka Yuen’s Gui Ling Gao (龜苓膏) herbal jelly is also a must-try during hot summers.
Chau Ka Yuen Herbal Tea, G/F, 52 Ap Lei Chau Main Street, Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong
3. Chuen Chun Tong Chinese Herbal
Known for its original 28 Herbs Tea, Chuen Chun Tong has long been supported by Kowloon residents for the effectiveness of its remedies. A Chinese medicine practitioner first established the store over 60 years ago and passed on the business to his son. Some must-try items including Five Flower Tea, Apple Pear Tea, Fieldcrest Maculata Soup, and Canton Abrus Herb Tea. After enjoying a bowl of refreshing herbal tea at Chuen Chun Tong, make sure to grab their handmade five-spice pork dumplings to take home!
Chuen Chun Tong Chinese Herbal, Shop B2, G/F, 29 Nga Tsin Wai Road, Kowloon City, Hong Kong, p. 2383 7081
4. Hung Fook Tong
With stores inside MTR stations and shopping centres across Hong Kong, Hung Fook Tong brings Chinese herbal teas to the masses. As the city’s largest herbal retailer, Hung Fook Tong’s expansive network makes traditional apothecary-style shops an everyday convenience. Guided by its motto “Naturally Made, Wholeheartedly Good,” the brand rigorously controls its quality, using no additives or artificial ingredients. By modernising ancient herbal brews like chrysanthemum tea or ginseng infusions into grab-and-go formats, Hung Fook Tong shares time-honoured Chinese medicine with on-the-go Hong Kongers.
Hung Fook Tong has multiple stores across Hong Kong.
5. Good Spring Company (春回堂藥行)
Located near the Soho escalators, Good Spring Company maintains a low-key presence, often missed by both locals and tourists passing by. Turns out, though, that Good Spring Company is a true hidden gem that exudes the charm of a century-old store. The store offers a wide selection of herbal teas and pre-made drinks, capturing the essence of traditional Hong Kong herbal medicine shops. One of the highlights is the ginseng tea, which has become a personal favourite for many. Grab a cup before a night out in Lan Kwai Fong or Soho, and you’ll feel energised and ready to take on the night.
Good Spring Company, G/F, 8 Cochrane Street, Central, Hong Kong, p. 2544 3518
[This article was originally published in November 2019 and updated in 2023 by Catherine Pun.]