You’ve probably never tasted Hawthorn Iced Tea, but it’s easy to make, wonderfully refreshing, and has a unique tangy fruit flavor that goes great with any meal. Hawthorn is also prized in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its many health benefits!
A Refreshing Berry Iced Tea
If you’re an iced tea lover, you’re nearing the end of the summer and you might be growing tired of your go-to formulations.
That said, this Hawthorn Iced Tea is a refreshing alternative with a unique thirst-quenching flavor, and it only takes three ingredients! Dried hawthorn berries, sugar, and water. It’s my kind of recipe.
What is Chinese hawthorn?
Chinese Hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida; 山楂, shān zhā) is part of the genus Cretaegus, found in Asia, Europe, and North America. Chinese Hawthorn in particular features small, tart red fruits that resemble crabapples.
The first time I had hawthorn, also known as hawberry, or Chinese hawberry, was when my parents were living in Beijing. Naturally, trips to Beijing on my school breaks meant regular trips to the grocery store and settling into a different rhythm of life in China (in between sleeping off my most recent run of ill-advised college all-nighters).
Anyone who’s been to a grocery store in China can attest to the alluring yet puzzling quality of the snack/candy aisles with their many colors and oddball flavors (wasabi Oreos, anyone?).
I gravitated towards a bucket of plum-colored fruit leathers, and my mother actually thought they were yang mei or Chinese bayberry flavored, which I had recently taken a liking to. (Those are another fruit that I’ve only ever found in China and have a similarly distinctive and fantastical tutti fruity berry flavor.)
Alas, they weren’t yangmei flavor, but it turns out it was a happy mistake, as they were actually hawberry fruit leathers. As I sit here munching on some of said candy writing this, the flavor is something like the earthiness of a cherry, mixed with the tang of a strawberry, and the undertone of apple. It’s hard to describe, but entirely different than anything you’ve had and perfect for summer!
Luckily, unlike yang mei bayberries, it’s much easier to find dried hawthorn berries for this tea stateside!
Hawthorn Berry Benefits
Chinese Hawthorn has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for:
- Antioxidants! Hawthorn berries are full of polyphenols, which can help fight free radicals.
- Reducing inflammation.
- Lowering blood pressure (hawberries are one of the most commonly recommended foods to help treat high blood pressure in China).
- Treating digestive issues, like indigestion, slow digestion, and ulcers.
- Heart health, and for alleviating shortness of breath and fatigue symptoms.
What else is Chinese Hawthorn used for?
Hawthorn is a popular flavor agent for candies in China and comes in a few different versions: sometimes as a jelly or gummy candy format, as a fruit leather, and sometimes in a more dissolvable “smarties” esque form in slim discs of cane sugar that come in a paper roll.
My dad grew up eating these “haw flakes” as a kid. I have to say that I’m partial to the fruit roll-up style hawthorn berry fruit leathers.
Hawberry is also a popular sweet treat sold by street vendors in China. Fruits of all kinds are coated in a honey-colored caramelized syrup, speared on sticks and perfect for munching while you’re clamoring for a good selfie. You can see them at the back of the cart in the photo below (taken on our trip to Harbin, China)
They’re also used to make teas and drinks like this one, and even in sauces.
In short, Chinese Hawthorn is a much-loved fruit and definitely worth giving a shot over your standard raspberry or lemon iced teas!
Hawthorn Iced Tea Recipe Instructions
Add the dried hawthorn and water to a medium pot. Bring to a boil.
Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
You’ll see that the tea has taken on a lovely deep amber color:
Turn the heat off, and add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.
Allow to cool completely, and then strain in a fine-meshed sieve and serve with ice. If the tea is too tart for your taste, sweeten to taste with honey, which dissolves more easily than sugar.
Hawthorn Iced Tea
- 2 1/2 ounces dried Chinese Hawthorn berries (70g)
- 6 cups water (1.4L)
- 1/4 cup sugar (50g)
- Add the dried hawthorn and water to a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Turn the heat off, and add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.
- Allow to cool completely, and then strain in a fine-meshed sieve and serve with ice. If the tea is too tart for your taste, sweeten to taste with honey, which dissolves more easily than sugar.