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Lei cha (Chinese: 擂茶; pinyin: léi chá; literally "pounded tea") or ground tea is a traditional Han-Chinese tea-based beverage or gruel. The custom of Lei cha began in the Three Kingdoms period or even Han Dynasty. It is very prevalent among Hakka people in Hakka regions of Mainland China (mainly Southeast China). It is brought by Hakka people to Taiwan, Malaysia, and any locales with a substantial Hakka diaspora population. Besides Hakka Lei cha, Lei cha is also very traditional among Hunanese people in Northern part of Hunan Province of Mainland China. So, the Lei cha custom in China has two different kinds: Hakka Lei cha; and Hunan Lei cha.
Lei cha is not the same as Chinese tea because there are always other ingredients. Pounded tea consists of a mix of tea leaves and herbs that are ground or pounded together with various roasted nuts, seeds, grains, and flavorings.
Although commercially prepared and prepackaged Lei cha can be bought, the drink is usually made "from scratch" just as it is about to be consumed.
Pounded tea is a varying mix of:
- tea leaves – any type of tea leaf can be used, but the most popular and common are either Green tea or Oolong; for ease of use, sometimes matcha (finely milled green tea) is used
- roasted nuts and seeds – the most commonly used are peanuts, mung beans, and sesame; other examples include soybeans, pinenuts, Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Lentils, lotus seeds
- roasted grains – examples: cooked or puffed rice, wheat
- herbs and flavorings – examples: ginger, salt
- Chinese herbal medicine may be included for health purposes
The powder is then placed into a serving bowl and hot water is stirred into it such that a thin soup-like beverage is produced.
The tea is drunk for breakfast or on cold winters as a tasty and healthy restorative.
Lei cha may also be taken as a dietary brew. In that case, it is served with rice and other vegetarian side dishes such as greens, tofu, and pickled radish.
Traditionally, Lei cha is a savory brew; however, in contemporary interpretations it is often consumed as a sweet drink.
- History and cultural significance of Lei cha
- Description of Lei cha and its benefits (Chinese)
- Lei Cha and its accompanying dishes
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