Taiwan is made up of several ethnic groups. The Hakka are the second-largest of these groups, making up about 20% of the total population of Taiwan.
Many of the Hakka families in Taiwan trace their origin to China’s Guangdong province, originally settling in the northern counties of Hsinchu and Miaoli. There are also Hakka communities in the southern counties of Kaohsiung and Pingtung.
The Hakka have unique customs, cuisine and language. A popular Hakka beverage is lei cha, also known as Hakka tea. Lei cha literally means “pounded tea” which describes the method of grinding the ingredients into a paste.
Lei cha is made by mixing peanuts, sesame seeds, and tea. The ingredients are placed in a ceramic bowl and ground with a wooden pestle into a paste. The paste is mixed with hot water to a soup-like consistency and served in bowls.
Ingredients for Hakka Tea
The traditional ingredients of lei cha are:
- tea leaves (either green tea or oolong)
- raw sesame seeds
- roasted peanuts
Other ingredients can be added:
- raw pine nuts
- sunflower seeds
- cooked or puffed rice
- mint leaves
- mung beans
The ingredients are mixed to a ratio of 3 parts tea leaves, 3 parts sesame seeds and peanuts, and 1 part remaining ingredients.
Instructions for Making Hakka Tea
Place all the ingredients in a ceramic bowl and grind them with a wooden pestle. Add a small amount of water as you grind to make a paste.
The resulting paste is mixed with hot water and served in bowls. Lei cha was traditionally served salty, but today is often sweetened with sugar.
Hakka tea is a healthy drink that may account for the renowned longevity of the Hakka people. It is often served with rice and side dishes of vegetables, tofu, and pickles.