Lei Cha: Have You Ever Tried Hakka Pounded Tea?

published Jan 22, 2013
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Recently Serious Eats featured “pestle tea,” a Hakka Chinese drink made from tea leaves pounded with nuts and seeds. Intrigued by the sound of this creamy, nourishing tea, we explored further and realized this is the lei cha that we’ve found in packets at Asian markets — but so much better when made from scratch.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Lei cha, also known as pounded, ground, or thunder tea, is a specialty of the Hakka people of southern China. (Large Hakka diaspora communities also exist in Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.) The drink consists of green or oolong tea leaves pounded in a mortar and pestle with roasted nuts and seeds such as peanuts, sesame seeds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Herbs, beans, and roasted grains like puffed rice may also be added.

After grinding them to a paste, the ingredients are mixed with hot water or tea to form a thick, luscious drink. Often times it is served over rice, vegetables, and pickled radishes to make a nutritious soup.

Although it comes from centuries-old tradition, Hakka tea is not a specific recipe, and it’s open to experimentation. For example, we loved reading how Hunger and Thirst adapted the method to her own, local ingredients and a molcajete. You can also use a food processor instead of a mortar and pestle, but we find that hand grinding can be very satisfying!

Have you ever tried pestle tea?

Learn more:
Pestle Tea at Serious Eats
Wild Pestle Tea at Hunger and Thirst
Hakka Lei Cha at Arbor Teas

(Images: Heidi’s WorK BooK, used with permission)