Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Cool Brew

My first solo assignment for Going Places was quite an adventure.

I've only had a passing interest for herbal tea. Late nights and a love of hot, spicy foods have given me lots of heat-related problems. It wasn't until this assignment came along that I began to learn more.

Pages 54 and 55 of "A Cool Brew", Going Places, October 2010

Compressing over 2,000 words of notes into a 1,200-word piece was hard, almost as hard as figuring out the names, attributes and properties of the common Chinese herbs used in the more common herbal teas. The ubiquitous bei zhi cao or puk ji chou, for instance, is either made of the Chinese cinquefoil, or some other herb with similar properties. And the baihua sheshecao apparently has two Latin aliases.

Pages 56 and 57 of "A Cool Brew", Going Places, October 2010

Last page of "A Cool Brew",
Going Places, October 2010
My adventures into the lives of these herbal tea vendors unearthed more than what the allotted space could hold. I must've drunk more herbal brews in the weeks of leg work than what I would usually take in a year.

The life of a herbal tea vendor is hard. Virtually everyone I spoke to agreed that they are most likely the last generation to man their stalls, which have decades of history behind them. While some vendors have gone big (such as Hor Yan Hor, now Hovid Berhad), many others will eventually disappear. I've patronised stalls such as Hu Zhong Tian near Petaling Street, which I still remember from my Informatics College days. I can't imagine stalls like that disappearing entirely.

But they will, eventually. Bottled, canned and packet herbal teas are finding their way to shelves at supermarkets, hypermarkets and your neighbourhood 7-Eleven or Chinese medicine hall. For slightly more traditional households, pre-packaged herbs for some common herbal teas are available at many Chinese medicine halls.

The editing and photography are, as usual, excellent. Thanks also to Hovid Berhad, and the herbal tea vendors who helped make this article possible.


  1. But there are now the commercial herbal tea shops found in shopping malls like 1 Utama, Ikano Power Centre, Tropicana City Mall and even Tesco in Mutiara Damansara.

  2. I felt nostalgic when doing this assignment. It's more personal to buy herbal brews from old-fashioned stalls. At least most of the stall-owners know what they're selling.


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