Across the world in a cup of tea

A story of tea from England to China.

There is an ancient Chinese proverb:

“Better to be deprived of food for 3 days than tea for one day”.


herbal teas jen's vegan kitchen

When I came back to China I brought with me a selection box of delicious herbal teas. There was a ginger tea, a sweet fruity tea, a cooling mint tea, to name a few. I have been enjoying these teas and sharing them with friends since I got back to Jinan, and I just finished the box.

It may seem silly bringing tea from the UK to China – since the 1600s, tea has been traveling in the opposite direction! But to me, it made perfect sense.

I discovered the brand Pukka on my most recent visit home when my dear friend Olivia introduced me to the ‘night time’ blend which was soothing and calming and soon became a regular part of my bedtime routine. This company is actively reducing their carbon footprint, sourcing only organic ingredients and focusing on health and wellbeing. I bought my Pukka teas at Sainsbury’s, but I think they are available at all major supermarkets in the UK. For more information, visit

As I enjoyed the last tea bag in my selection box (detox: a blend of aniseed, fennel, cardamom, and licorice) I noticed the writing on the inside of the empty box with a message of thanks in 10 languages.

pukka tea jen's vegan kitchen

Something about seeing all those different languages gave me a little feeling of wanderlust. It reminded me of a beautiful quote from Judith Thurman (author of Secrets of the Flesh):

“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to.”

It’s this exact feeling that drew me to China in the first place, more than a year ago.

As I considered my next move, where shall I go and what shall I do when I finally decide to move on from Jinan, I have so many ideas. It’s almost overwhelming! This time next year (or the year after, or the year after that) I could be anywhere, doing anything! I could be teaching English, sweeping temple floors, WWOOFing, or adventuring through the wilderness with my bike, in any of the countries whose languages I found in the bottom of that box of tea. And this contemplation of the future made me think of all sorts of other things.

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life”.

Lin Yutang (Author of The Importance of Living)

And finally, as my rambling thoughts bring me back to my peaceful windowsill where I sit and enjoy my cup of tea this morning, I remember why I am in China, and learning Chinese. Not any of those 10 other languages I found in the empty box.

And so I find myself filled with gratitude for the wide variety of Chinese herbal teas in my cupboard. And as I am not quite ready yet to leave Jinan and continue exploring the world, I am happy to explore another cup of tea.

Here are just some of the teas in my collection:

Chinese Herbal Teas:


Kuding Tea  苦丁茶

‘Ku’ means ‘bitter’. Although the initial taste can be bitter, ku ding cha has a pleasant and sweet after-taste. The second character ‘ding’ looks like a spike or needle, describing the way these tea leaves are rolled into a spiral.

In traditional Chinese medicine, this tea is known to disperse that infamous ‘wind-heat’. It can help reduce high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The Chinese saying 降三高 (jiang san gao) means ‘reduce three highs’.


Rose Tea 玫瑰茶

Rose tea is high in vitamin C and antioxidants. It has many benefits for the skin and hair. It can also provide relief for menstrual cramps, and is sometimes known as ‘lady’s tea’.


Lotus Seed Core Tea  莲子茶

Traditional Chinese medicine views lotus seeds as astringent, reducing the amount of fluid leakage from the organs, in particular, the kidneys.

Chinese legend tells us that lotus seeds could be the key to immortality and eternal youth. I’m not sure how true this is, though it is thought to have anti-aging effects. I read somewhere that lotus seed tea can ‘tranquilise the mind by nourishing the heart’. How beautiful!

The lotus plant’s importance in China is linked to Buddhism and has long been a symbol of purity. The lotus grows from the mud, through the murky water towards the sun to bloom at the surface of the water. A lotus flower in full bloom can, therefore, represent enlightenment.


Honeysuckle Tea  金银花茶

In China, honeysuckle tea can be used to treat coughs and colds. It is thought that this tea has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Honeysuckle can also provide relief from headaches and fevers.

The name 金银花 ‘jin yin hua’ translates to ‘gold silver flower’ and describes how the wonderful honeysuckle flowers turn from gold/yellow to silver/white.


Bamboo Leaf Tea  竹叶茶

This tea promotes healthy hair and nail growth, due to high amounts of silica. Silica can also help to strengthen bones and teeth. Bamboo tea is also beneficial for digestion and regulating blood sugar.


And so, one more quote to finish the post:


An Ode to Tea, by Daniel Dalton

“Tea, tea, a wonderful drink

The more you have

The more you think,

The more you think

The better you write

So let’s drink tea all day and night”



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