4-Minute Coffee with Uncle Reggie: “Hot water or hot tea?”
( 鞠君翻譯)

Boiling hot water awaits you… Hot water for drinking was everywhere around me when I was growing up in Asia. It’s common in homes to have a hot water flask available at any time for anyone who might want it, especially guests.

滚烫的热水在等着你… 我从小在亚洲长大。在我的记忆中,亚洲处处都有饮用热水的习惯。家家户户也都备有热水瓶,随时给人,尤其是客人,提供可饮用的热水。

In modern days, an always-boiling electric water flask has become essential for Asian Chinese families. Hot water is truly a beverage in itself, much as you might think that hot tea is a beverage in China.

The ever-present boiling water flask in traditional China, in every home, rich or poor.


Germs and villages…This hot water tradition is great for health reasons, especially in rural villages. Since water is always drunk boiling hot, with or without tea leaves, it likely reduces gastrointestinal diseases when foreigners visit China, even in rural areas. And meals also are commonly served steaming hot, rarely cold!

细菌和村庄… 这种饮用热水的传统对健康十分有利,尤其是在农村。由于总是喝烧开后的热水,无论加茶叶与否,这都很大程度地降低了外国人在访问中国期间(尤其是农村)患上胃肠疾病的风险。中国人的三餐也通常以热腾腾的饭菜为主,几乎没有冷的!

This is not necessarily so in many villages in the world, where drinking water might not be freshly boiled, and you can get into serious trouble. Several of my co-traveling friends had to spend the whole night in the bathroom because of that.

然而这个世界上还有很多的农村并没有这样的饮水习惯。由于他们的饮用水可能并不是刚刚烧开的, 所以这就有可能给人身体上带来严重的困扰。我记得我的几位同行朋友就是因为这个原因不得不在厕所呆了一整个晚上。

Loose bottle cap peril… I walked into a hotel room in one country. A bottle of water warmly welcomed me. Except I noticed the cap was not sealed.

瓶子盖而未封的风波… 有一次,在一个国家,当我入住了一家酒店,走进我预订的房间时,桌上有一瓶水在热烈地迎接我。只是我注意到瓶子虽盖着,却没有封口。

I instantly remembered the horror stories, and instinctively recoiled from it! Who knows what’s inside: possibly tap water, certainly water of uncertain origin. And most tap waters in the world are certainly nowhere close to Switzerland’s.


It’s not that simple to ask, “Can I have some hot water?”… In many parts of North America, especially where there are few Asians, if you were to ask at a restaurant for hot water, there’s often a quizzical look by the waitress, wondering what you mean.

问别人“我能要一些热水吗?”并不是一件那么简单的事… 在北美有许多地区,特别是亚洲人稀少的地方,如果你在餐馆要一杯热水,服务员通常会不解地看着你,不明白你是什么意思。

Routinely elaborate tea-pouring in China.

I often have to add, “I mean just hot water, without any tea bags.” I’ve had waitresses tell me they didn’t have any hot water.

我常常得在后面补充一句,“我只要热水,不要茶包。” 曾经有服务员告诉过我他们没有热水。

The missing tea bag trick… Sometimes on a national US flight, I might meet a stewardess who doesn’t quite catch it, so I usually say, “Please give me hot water and a tea bag, separately.” She will assume I’m just soaking my tea bag in hot water myself, which she understands. And then I just quietly omit the tea bag, to have my pure hot water! Try it, it works well. And it even tastes good.

不要茶包的招数… 有时候在美国国内飞机上,我可能会遇到一个空乘人员不太明白我的问题,所以我通常会说:“请给我一杯热水和一个茶包,分开放。”她会以为我想自己把茶包放热水里,这样她就能理解了。然后我就不理会一旁的茶包,就喝到了纯正的热水!不妨你也试一试,这个办法效果很不错。甚至热水喝起来也令人为之一爽。

Asians just cannot understand why some Americans don’t get it! After all, Americans have a funnier custom of drinking ice-cold tea or ice-cold water in winter, which would be unheard of in traditional Asian culture!


“Have some ice water after the baby’s birth!”… An American woman who is pregnant or who has just delivered a baby might ordinarily ask for ice water. But that would be more than shocking in traditional Asian culture! The likely reaction could be, “That’s terrible, if you drink cold water after having a baby, you’ll get arthritis when you’re old! You can’t do that!”

“生完孩子后来点冰水!”…. 一个怀孕或刚生完孩子的美国女性可能往往要求喝冰水。但在传统的亚洲文化里,这个要求会让人大跌眼镜!亚洲人的反应很有可能是:“这太可怕了,如果在生完孩子后喝冰水,你老了会得关节炎的!千万不能这样做!”

If, however, an Asian woman in a USA delivery room asks for hot water to drink, the response of the delivery staff might be, “Why would you want to have hot water? We can easily give you ice water.” Which sends ice-cold shivers down the spine of traditional Asians.


Hours of gushing blood… Recently, I had a tooth extraction which resulted in gushing blood for five and half hours. Our white daughter-in-law suggested I apply a black tea bag to it. Actually, that is likely based on Chinese herbal traditional medicine, and it stopped the bleeding, immediately, quite magically! A very helpful tradition in time of need.

长达数小时的血流不止… 最近,我拔了一颗牙。术后伤口处血流不止,长达五个半小时。我们的白人儿媳建议我在伤口上敷一块红茶包。实际上,这也可能是基于传统中医药学,出血立刻就止住了,非常神奇!在有需要的时候这个传统非常管用。

The bleeding had been likely provoked by my eating pickled ginger as an appetizer during the preceding week. Ginger is used as a Chinese health-promoting anticoagulant (1) herb (like baby aspirin). But that was not my intention; I just ate the ginger because it was tasty, and I forgot about it when I went for tooth extraction. Ginger versus tea, both functioning as (opposing) traditional medicines, easily forgotten as such in normal food and drink.


Unique presentation of packed dried tea leaves. Is this ornamental, a memento, or drinkable?

“Not for all the tea in China”… There’s an English saying, “I would not do that for all the tea in China!…” Implying that there is a LOT of tea in China. But when I arrived in the USA in 1966, I felt like, in contrast to all the tea in China, there was no tea in the USA.

“For all the tea in China… 英语里有一句俗语:“就是给我中国所有的茶叶,我也不愿意做那件事!” 这句俗语暗示了中国有很多很多的茶叶。可是当我1966年到达美国时,我感觉与中国所有的茶相比,

I arrived to work as a lowly pediatric resident in a huge Chicago hospital. There was ice water and coffee everywhere. But there was absolutely no tea, neither hot nor cold.


Torturing medical residents… So on every night duty shift, every second or third night, all night long the only available beverage was the ever-present hot coffee, or ice-cold orange juice from the many hospital refrigerators. Or tap water, which no one in their right mind would drink in Asia.

饱经煎熬的住院医时光… 每隔二到三晚就有一次夜班轮值,而整个夜间能喝的饮料选项要么是无处不在的热咖啡,要么是医院冰箱里的冰冷橙汁。还有就是任何正常亚洲人都不会喝的自来水。

So obviously I learnt to drink coffee, a new drink and lifesaver for me. Of course, there was absolutely no hot water anywhere to drink! What is hot water anyway?


In-flight Hong Kong milk tea?… On an international United Airlines flight to Hong Kong, I asked the white air hostess whether I could have a cup of hot water. She understood immediately, but she then teased me, “Better yet, I can make you hot Hong Kong milk tea!”

飞机上的香港奶茶?… 在一次飞往香港的联合航空国际航班上,我问一位白人空姐要一杯热水。她立刻明白了,然后她还跟我逗趣说:“我还可以给你做一杯热的香港奶茶!”

I instantly perked up, very surprised, and asked, “Really, how could you have that on a US airline?” I had never had that on any flight, even in Asia. And never have since, either.


She had a twinkle in her eye and said, “I can make you my secret homemade hot Hong Kong Milk Tea. I’ll make it specially for you!”


A very famous classic drink… “Of course!” I enthused. Hong Kong Milk Tea, hoeng1gong2naai5 caa4, is so famous. Likely an exquisite combination of Chinese and British tea drinking traditions. She told me she used three different Chinese teas, put them in a silk stocking, strained and strained all together, plus the important classic sweetened condensed milk.

一种著名的经典饮品… “太好了!”我热情地回应道。香港奶茶,hoeng1gong2naai5 caa4,非常有名。是中国和英国茶饮传统的精美结合。她告诉我她用了三种不同样的中国茶,把它们混放在一个丝袋中一起过滤,再兑上经典炼乳。这一步很重要。

I was impressed. It turned out to be quite good, but not perfect. It’s difficult to make Hong Kong Milk Tea while flying that could be as good as that made in legendary Hong Kong tea-restaurants on land!


Actually, I loved this Hong Kong specialty whenever I went to Hong Kong, which was very often when I started the China medical mission. During an active tea-drinking phase of my life, among “all the (great) teas in China”!


Chai pouring, from “35 Malaysian Street Foods Across Malaysia!!” By Luke Martin, YouTube.
从《35种马来西亚各地的街头美食!!》中,卢克·马丁(Luke Martin)的油管频道,倒chai 茶的场景。

3-foot tall chai pouring… Of course, the art of serving tea is really sophisticated in China and Asia where tea drinking can involve complex ceremonies. I was also intrigued by tea pouring at chai shops in India and Malaysia, where the server pours hot chai from a 3-foot-high starting point. It looks dramatic and the tea indeed tastes wonderful. And it’s frothy.

三英尺高处倒Chai茶… 当然,在中国和亚洲,倒茶是一门很有讲究的艺术,还可能涉及到一些复杂的仪式。我觉得印度和马来西亚茶店里的倒茶方式非常有趣,服务员把茶壶拎到三英尺高给客人倒热茶。这看起来非常戏剧化,这样倒出来的茶尝起来很美味。而且还是泡沫状的。

Chai is a variation of the Chinese Mandarin or Cantonese word cha 茶, just as tea is the variation of the same word茶, in southern Chinese Fujian, pronounced as te if you ever wondered. They’re all the same Chinese character for “tea”. Different tea origins came with different regional languages of China. Thus chai tea simply means tea tea. Huh?

Chai 是中国普通话或粤语中cha 的一个变体,不知你想过没有,tea 其实也是从中国福建南部方言中茶的发音te 演变而来,这几种发音都是用同一个汉字”茶“。不同品种茶的发源地跟中国不同地方的方言息息相关。因此,chai tea 就是tea tea。是不是有些让人费解?

“But, what are those tooth stains?”… While drinking all the different exciting China teas, especially Hong Kong milk tea, it wasn’t long before my very observant wife noticed my teeth were really stained quite yellow-brown. Pretty clearly, the tea tannins had a special love affair with my teeth.

“但是,那些牙渍是怎么回事?”… 在我饮遍了各种各样令人兴奋的中国茶,尤其是香港奶茶之后不久,我十分细心的妻子注意到我的牙齿被染成了明显的黄褐色。很显然,茶里的鞣酸与我的牙齿之间发生了一段特殊的爱情故事。

Sure enough, after I stopped drinking these wonderful teas, especially, sadly, my favorite Hong Kong Milk Tea, gradually the stains faded. Maybe it’s just as well, since coffee tastes really good anyway. Or just hot water!


Tons of gorgeous expensive teas… But now I was faced with the problem of gorgeous gifts of teas whenever I visited the modern upscale hospitals in China. Expensive and beautifully presented in bulky, dazzling boxes! As I traveled, I had to reluctantly give away these exquisite big boxes as best I could at my next stops.

大量昂贵又上好的茶叶… 可是现在我面临一个问题,就是每当我参观中国现代化的高档医院时,院方都会送我精美的礼品盒,里面装着品质上好且价格昂贵的茶叶。但是因为旅行途中多有不便,我往往不得不尽量在我旅程中的下一站把这些精美的茶叶礼盒送出去。

I took pictures of the beautiful boxes, to remember them fondly! After all, it was costly for people to give these teas, and I really appreciated it! But it was just physically impossible to bring them all home!


Beautiful expensive teas in huge beautiful expensive boxes, all over China.


“Try our free brand-new tea; it just arrived!”… A very friendly barista at Bruegger’s, a popular Cincinnati restaurant, offered me a free drink, maybe because I was the only Asian visiting that day. “We’ve just received an excellent new tea. Try it, our compliments!”


I don’t normally have iced tea, but since it was a hot day, I thought, “Why not?” So I drank a whole American-sized cup, which was indeed quite tasty.


Minutes later, I started feeling so groggy that I had to lie flat on a bench, as the world slowly turned around me.


Emergency room potential… I got groggier and groggier, feeling uncomfortable all over. I nearly called an ambulance as I wasn’t really sure what was going on.


Nearly two hours later, it all gradually went away, definitely some sort of caffeine overdose.


The episode is a reminder that the caffeine dose of tea in America is not the same as in Asia. In Asia, teas are traditionally lightly presented through visible real tea leaves, not hidden mysteriously inside a tea-bag-filled dispenser.


Caffeine rankings… Teas in America are highly variable in caffeine dosage, depending indeed on how many tea bags are in the dispenser! No one ever tells you, and you certainly don’t know, how many tea bags there are! Potentially a huge “dosing” variation.

咖啡因剂量排名… 在美国,茶里的咖啡因剂量差异很大的真正原因取决于茶水机里装了多少个茶袋!若没有人告诉过你,你肯定不知道里面有多少茶包。茶包的多少极大可能造成了茶与茶之间咖啡因剂量的巨大差异。

I was surprised, years earlier, to read that rankings caffeine amounts in American teas showed caffeine was much higher in teas than coffees. After this Bruegger’s experience, I think it’s most likely related to how many tea bags were used.


What’s a tea bag anyway?… In spite of “all the tea in China”, there were previously no tea bags in China.

茶袋到底是什么?…尽管“all the teas in China, 中国的茶各种各样”,但以前中国并没有茶袋。

Even after tea bags were invented, it was not very polite to serve a tea bag at any formal function in Asia. It might even have seemed rather “low class”. I certainly don’t remember any classic teas served that way. Of course, times have changed and tea bags are sort of okay now.


And of course, in America it’s totally acceptable to give someone a cup of hot water and a tea bag, so she can choose her own “dosing”. Sometimes you are even given a pleasant choice of bags of different teas. You’re on your own with the lonely tea bag and its dose is totally under your control.


“Do you squeeze tea bags?”…I’ve seen sophisticated ladies seriously squeezing the tea bag “to get their money’s worth”, to have the maximum amount of tea, or, I suppose, caffeine effect. This adds to the excitement of tea bags, I assume.

“你挤茶袋吗?”… 我见过一些打扮精致的女士“为了物有所值”而认真地挤茶袋,以便达到茶的最大利用值,我想,这或许是咖啡因的效果。

Queens sipping tea together…. Actually, for good international relationships, I could imagine the good Queen Elizabeth II would have had a great time drinking tea together with the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi of China. The former would prefer drinking Earl Grey tea from China or India, and the Empress might prefer drinking ba bao tea, “8 precious treasures combined teas”. Upper-class British tea drinking was probably as sophisticated as the Empress’. Both tea lovers indeed.


The drink “up there”… What about the drink “up there”? There’s supposedly an African song, “Drink more beer now…you won’t be doing that later in heaven.” That might be humorously bad theology, because one of the most interesting miracles by the Great Teacher was converting water into wine at a wedding party, a great surprise to everyone! So who really knows what the surprise drink would be “up there”? Maybe it’s just converted hot tasty water!

“天上的饮料”… 那么“天上的饮料”呢?据说有一首非洲歌,歌中唱到 “现在多喝点啤酒……到天堂你就喝不到了。”这可能是一个既幽默又糟糕的神学说法,因为那位伟大教师所行的最有意思的神迹之一就是在婚礼上将水变成了葡萄酒,给了每个人一个大大的惊喜!所以有谁真正知道“在那里”将会有什么令人喜出望外的饮料呢?或许就是转化而来的可口热水吧!