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Shanghai summer drinks - from sour plum drink to mung bean soup

TRADITIONAL Shanghai beverages for summer cool you down, perk you up, boost your health and taste good, too. Sour plum drink is famous, so are mung bean soup, barley tea and salt soda. Kat Jiang takes a sip. For generations, Shanghai folks beat the heat with a refreshing and healthy variety of summer drinks, soups, teas and sodas. They are still popular and available in restaurants, markets and stalls on the street.

They include suanmei tang, or sour plum drink (literally soup), roasted barley tea, mung bean soup and salt soda, a carbonated drink that is actually a little sweet with a hint of lemon and mint.

Suanmei tang (sour plum drink)

This deep purple favorite is made from sour plums, licorice, sweet osmanthus, hawthorn and sugar - boiled and cooled. You can buy it bottled, or as liquid concentrate and powder.

This cooling drink is believed to have health benefits, aid digestion and offset the harmful effects of spicy food and hot pot.

Suanmei tang has a history of more than 1,000 years and is popular throughout China and overseas in Chinese communities. The most popular recipe was developed for the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) during the early 18th century.

It is made by first soaking sour plums in water, adding hawthorn, licorice root and sweet osmanthus and then boiling the mixture. Rose petals may be added later. Rock sugar is added, then it's boiled again and cooled.

All those steps - that's why no one makes it at home.

Damai cha (barley tea)

Roasted barley tea is a popular drink that keeps people fresh in the hot and humid summer.

Pearl barley, also known as Job's tears, is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is mildly "cold" (containing yin energy ) and aids digestion, benefits the stomach and spleen and said to aid in weight loss. It cleanses the system and can help soothe the throat and treat congestion and bronchitis.

Barley tea is traditionally made by briefly simmering roasted barley grains. It has a toasty taste, with slight bitter undertones, but much less so than tea made from tea leaves. You can add honey or sugar, though many purists insist on drinking it unsweetened.

Many people say it's more refreshing than plain water. It can be drunk in the morning and at night. It's usually served cold, though the hot version is popular in winter.

In markets you can purchase barley that has already been roasted to a deep, dark brown - that form is the most common, but tea bags are also sold for cold brewing.

Simmering makes for the most robust tea. You can make it as strong as you wish, but two tothree spoonfuls per liter is a common proportion.

Ludou tang (mung bean soup)

Tiny mung beans, known as "green beans" in Chinese, are "cold" in yin energy, sweet in flavor and have a detoxifying cooling effect on the system. Mung beans are also said to reduce fat.

If you like sweet red beans, you'll like sweet green beans.

Just boil 300g of beans in one and a half liters of water, boil, cover and simmer. Add pandan leaves and rock sugar. Simmer for 60 to 80 minutes until the beans are soft.

Yan qi shui (salt soda water)

Carbonated salt soda water has been popular in summer since the 1960s. For many people, it's a drink of nostalgia, produced by famous brands such as Yanzhong and Zhengguanghe.

Seeing the huge popularity, Pepsi-Cola Co also produces it.

It's a Chinese equivalent of sparkling mineral water. Although it's called "salt," it's a little on the sweet side and tastes of lemon and mint.

Where to get a taste

Sour plum drinkk

Palace Desserts

Address: 151 Chengdu Rd N., near Weihai Rd

Tel: 6340-1977

Spicy Joint

Address: 4/F, 500, Jinling Rd E.

Tel: 6470-2777


Address: 148, Hongqiao Rd, near Yan'an Rd W.

Tel: 6209-7929, 6209-7919

Mung bean soup

Qiancheng Restaurant

Address: 408, Tangshan Rd, near Dantu Rd


Ayi Milk Tea House

Address: 82 Huoshan Rd

Jade Buddha Temple (vegetarian restaurant)

Address: 999, Jiangning Rd

Tel: 6266-5596,?6266-3668


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