At the end of last year, I was travelling in beautiful Guilin around Yangshuo and rice terraces, I was offered a fruit tea. It was so sweet that after one sip, I asked if sugar was added to the tea. Adding sugar to a hot drink is not very typical Chinese, and the answer was no. It was the all-natural sweetness of the fruit that is called Monk fruit (Lo Han Guo in Mandarin).
I was told that it is like passion fruit, but the locals do not eat it fresh. They dry it and make into tea. It is also commonly used in TCM for treatment of cough, sore throat, constipation etc.
The plant Siraitia grosvenorii is native to Southern China (Guangxi and other provinces) where the elevation is over 600 meters above sea level and also grows in Northern Thailand. The extract of the monk fruit is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, and it has been used as a natural sweetener in China for several centuries. I also saw that the powder of this fruit is sold in the Western markets as sugar replacement which has zero calories.
Apart from TCM, monk fruit is also known for its medical properties such as lowering inflammation, anti-oxidant and preventing seasonal allergy. The last point is exciting especially for someone like me who suffers from hay fever, given that there are not a lot of options to cure it. An experiment showed that regular use of monk fruit sweetener provides some allergy relief.
An excellent tea to have in your stash and I will try to use it as a sugar supplement too.
Origin: Guangxi, China
Harvest time: 2019
Leave colour: Yellow fruits (passion fruit size)
Liquor colour: Cloudy yellow
Tea aroma: Fruity
Tea taste: Very sweet and fruity
Steeping/brewing: Boil half of the fruit, after tearing it into pieces, for a couple of minutes. You can keep boiling until the taste disappears.
Shelf life: 1 to 2 years