Tea tasting: Jiaogulan

When my mom received this sampler pack of Chinese tea from my aunt who sang praises of its benefits, I did not think much of it at first.

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However, after taking a closer look, my curiosity was piqued because the leaves looked somewhat like oolong tea.

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The leaves have that “rolled” look like most Tieguanyin. At least, to my amateur eyes.

Later on I found out that this tea is actually not real tea but a tisane as it comes from a herb known as jiaogulan (絞股藍) or Gynostemma pentaphyllum.

The plant is a type of herbaceous creeping vine in the same family as cucumbers and gourds. It is found mostly in the northern parts of Southeast Asia like Vietnam and Thailand, China, Korea and Japan, the latter where it is known as amachazuru (甘茶蔓).

Jiaogulan is also known as immortality herb in China as it is proven to be an adaptogen plant, which helps the body regulate a whole lot of stuff. I am no scientist or biologist, so do look it up if you are curious.

I was told jiaogulan also helps in inducing sleepiness and relaxation, which sounds kind of like chamomile to me, so I decided to give it a try.

So how does jiaogulan taste like?

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My aunt advised us to put a few “lumps” of the rolled leaves, about 3-5, into a cup of hot water.

Using water at about 90°C, I let it steep for about 2 minutes.

The rolled leaves spread out fast when steeped in water and by the time it was ready, the leaves were fanned out and looking like the leaves on the jiaogulan plant I saw on the Internet.

The resulting liquor was a light tinge of yellow, with no distinctive aroma. It tasted surprisingly sweet and light-bodied, not exactly what I had expected of a herbal drink. It had a mildly sweet aftertaste too.

To give it credit, I did have a well-rested sleep when I drank it at night. It had the similar effect on me as chamomile would. Other so-called health benefits, well, I do not think it is possible to see any effect from drinking just a tiny sample. I think I would just stick to drinking my favourite beverage, that is, real tea.

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