Sunday, September 24, 2006

High mountain kuding yen cha

Kuding cha, also known as "bitter tea" is a unique Chinese tea. Kuding Tea is made from the leaves the holly category of ilex, t ilex or ligustrum.In Chinese, "ku" means bitter, describing the taste, and "ding" means nail indicating the shape of the dry leaves. The bitterness of the tea is an acquired taste to most. While the first impression is strong bitterness, sweet taste immediately follows leaving a bitter sweet after taste, resembling fresh bitter melon.

Quote: "Kuding tea has reputation of "health tea", "longevity tea" and "slim tea". It has been proven that kuding tea can diminish inflammation and ease pain, enhance salubrity and clean out toxins, reduce fat and blood pressure, and keep the body fit. Kuding tea is widely used to cure cold, rhinitis, itching eyes, red eyes, soar throat and headache. Kuding tea is very effective in weight loss. Kuding tea is mostly produced in the provinces of Yunnan, Hainan, and Fujian. " This sounds a little over the top, but there might be a good portion of truth to it.

I find this to be a wonderful tea while I was recovering from the ordeal, which was a period of time my taste buds were numb. It's also psychological that the bitter sweet taste also reflect human life, it can be bitter, however the sweetness is what you look forward to ultimately. This will be my comfort tea from now on.

3 to 5 "nails", gaiwan, boiling water - Glacier vending, Tony suggested hotter the better.

1st brew: 45 sec, light green tea soup, roasty, bitterness that stings your tongue, as soon as you swallow, sweetness follow and lingers for a while, not much aroma, leaves began to unfurl

2nd brew: 60 sec, a true green tea soup, intense bitterness with sweet under tone, mostly sweet after taste. The bitter taste shocks you like jumping in a frozen lake, shocking but kinda feels good too. Okay, I am exaggerating, maybe like iced cold water in your face.

3rd brew: 90 sec, green again, mellow bitterness, sweet after taste

Open leaves: large tender leaves, tender as green vegetable, 2 leaves on stems

This tea can take HOT water, 5 brews is not a problem. After drinking this tea, my body feels the need to rest, I can sleep better as well. I wonder if it contains caffeine, most likely not, if it does, my body would react differently. $39 per lb, it can last a long time.

I also tried making this tea with New Zealand Artesian water, it didn't bring out the bitter flavor like the vending machine water did. It's smoother and lighter in taste, both the bitter and sweet taste were lighter.


~ Phyll said...

I also find kuding cha pleasant when brewed lightly. Honestly, I wouldn't be able to drink it if brewed your way (3 to 5 nails, 45 secs). I'm not that brave yet. I usually just employ 1 nail, 45 secs at most with boiling water. I have so much kuding cha at home...a gift from my aunt, the tea drinker.

Question: can kuding cha be kept a long time (> 1 year, 2 years...more?)

Imen said...

I don't know Phyll. This is my first kuding. I'll ask Tony whom introduced me to it.

I grew up drinking Chinese medicine, funny how that builds your tolerance for bitterness. 5 nails makes no difference to me from 3.

Imen said...


Per Tony, Kuding can last a long long time, years if kept well. Proper way to store is use air tight container and freeze. This will maximize its freshness. Zip loc bags won't work tho.

~ Phyll said...

Good to know, thanks! Half of what I have is in an airtight canister, and the other half is in a sealed mylar bag, which I'll refrigerate tonight.

Who is Tony?

Imen said...

I met Tony at WHF a couple of weeks ago, an other tea obsessed person. We were tasting samples at the same time, I had da hong pao, and he had kuding. That's how I was introduced to Kuding.

William I. Lengeman III said...

I've never tried kuding, but it reminds me of the time I sampled some goldenseal tea. Takes bitter to a whole new realm.

Imen said...


I have not tried goldenseal, what is it?

Nice blog you have there, and thanks for including my blog. I am honered!

Elton said...

Hi Imen,

I had a sample of kuding tea sent to me from a Chinese company and I cupped it at 2gms for 5 mins! thinking it would be like a normal green or Oolong tea taste. I had all my co workers come and try it and it was the funniest thing to see them trying to scrub their tongues with their fingernails! I will have to trying it at a lesser brew time. Enjoy your blog.

Imen said...


wow, you are brave, 2g and 5 min should turn it deep green! I don't think I can handle that bitterness. haha

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story.

Michael said...


Thanks for discussion on Kuding Cha. I have a bunch at home now. I ordered 200 grams thinking "oh, bitter, I like yerba mate, I can do this". So yeah, this is some intensely bitter Chinese medicine.

I have grown to appreciate though. What get me though is it tastes somewhat like chlorine bitter, even though I use filtered water. I took a break from it to let it mellow some and to stock up on pu-erh.

Tonight I experimented in my kitchen with the Kuding Cha. I roasted a dozen nails at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 60-90 seconds. The result...

A far less bitter tea, although still bitter. What really surprised me is the baking/roasting took away about 70% of the bitterness, but left all the sweetness. Incredible. I hesitated at first, but I quickly finished my Roasted Kuding cha. That's right, quickly!

I encourage others to experiment and report back with experiences.

It's like Houjicha meets Yerba Mate.

SkinWench said...

I'm curious whether roasting the Kuding changes any of its health benefits.

I met someone today that told me about Kuding...I had never heard of it before. He told me he brews a tea everynight made with 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 nail of Kuding. This might be an option for those of you who don't like the bitterness (?).

PRINCE JOE said...

Should it be taken hot or cold?

PRINCE JOE said...

How many days can it last when boiled and left in a flask

PRINCE JOE said...

How many days can it last when boiled and left in a flask