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Get swea-tea in Shanghai

Nick Cai has been living in Shanghai for over three years. Every summer the Guangdong native receives a package of liangcha (medicinal herbal tea) ingredients from his hometown. Drinking liangcha is a time-honored custom for people in South China, especially Hong Kong, Guangdong Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, as it is believed to help counter the heat and humidity of summer. Indeed, although liangcha can be consumed hot or cold, it literally means "cooling tea" because of its purported ability to cool the body down.

This summer, as Shanghai residents endure unprecedented high temperatures, Cai's herbal tea has unexpectedly become popular with his friends in the city.

Luckily, you don't need to have a Cantonese friend send you dried ingredients from down south to enjoy a refreshing cup of liangcha. Here are three herbal tea purveyors in Shanghai. 

Old Chinese brand

Located down the narrow and quiet Xing'an Road away from the bustle of Huaihai Road Middle is the only Shanghai branch of the Guangdong-based brand Xu Qixiu Herbal Tea. The compact store has been in operation for seven years.

Xu Qixiu was born in 1870 into a family that ran a herbal tea business in Fogang, Guangdong Province, and later moved and settled down in the city of Yingde. He not only traded in herbal teas, but also prescribed them for local patients. 

The herbal tea prescriptions of Xu's family were later passed down from generation to generation, and Xu Qixiu Herbal Tea has been recognized by the Ministry of Commerce as a China Time-honored Brand.

The Shanghai branch currently offers a dozen kinds of herbal tea, which are available in bottles and as tea bags. The bottled tea is made every morning and is kept fresh in the refrigerator. 

On the menu are liangcha wang (literally, the king of herbal tea), which contains over 20 medicinal herbs and is said to relieve a sore throat; American ginseng tea boiled with pear and chrysanthemum, which is supposed to nourish the lungs; as well as maogen zhuzhe shui, Chinese sugar cane tea boiled with blady grass root that relieves the body's inner heat. The herbal teas are sold at 6 yuan ($0.97) per roughly 300-milliliter bottle.