Sour Plum Drink

Although the name “Sour Plum Drink” may put you off, it is the standard English translation of the popular Chinese drink suan mei tang. (An unfortunate Chinese translation is always amusing, but we like to call this beverage Sour Plum Tea.)

What is Sour Plum Drink?

But what exactly is sour plum tea? This drink has been consumed for generations in China, and even now, many Chinese consider it to be the best way to beat the heat. Despite the name, this magenta hue tastes as good as it looks!

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as central air conditioning. Knowing it was time to cool down internally when your palm-leaf fan was no longer doing the trick. In my recollection, watermelon, mung bean soup, and this sour plum drink were the three most frequently recommended treatments.

I can’t recall how often I drank this sour plum concoction, but I do recall that it was so rare that we had to dilute it with water or ice water before serving it to a large group. Even with the addition of water, this sour plum drink was the most refreshing beverage I can remember.

The long waits in the blistering heat for chilled drinks were also brought back to mind by this post. Our lives were considerably more challenging back then. There aren’t any refrigerators here.

And just exactly goes into making this tangy and tasty Sour Plum Drink? Dried sour plums, hawthorn berries, dried orange peel, licorice root, dried hibiscus flowers, and rock sugar have all been called for in various recipes I’ve seen.

However, the two most important ingredients are dried sour plums and hawthorn berries. Please don’t try to omit or replace them!

Beyond those two components, though, feel free to experiment based on your own preferences. You can’t go wrong with the ingredients as long as you stick to the range given in the recipe.

You can always add ice and water to water down the drink if it’s too potent. A sweet, aromatic flower known as osmanthus, available in dried flower, syrup, and wine form, is also required for the traditional preparation of the sour plum drink. Its most common applications are in beverages, baked goods, and braised meats.

Extra Health Benefits?

Some people believe Suan Mei Tang is a therapeutic beverage, much like the freshly pressed juices of today. All-natural components are used to help you feel refreshed, cool off, and cleanse your system.

It’s beneficial for the whole family and can help with “heat-related” illnesses. When eating spicy cuisine like hot pot, even the youngest diners know to ask for a Sour Plum Drink.

The original recipe, however, can be quite strong and even have a medicinal flavor if you aren’t careful, so I adapted it to make it more “user-friendly.”

Doesn’t this tea have a lovely and energizing hue? That’s because I know how much you appreciate that kind of thing.


  • 2500ml of water
  • 100g of rock sugar
  • 50-100g of dried hawthorn
  • 30-100g of dried sour plum
  • 10-20g of dried hibiscus flower/tea
  • 3-10g of dried orange peel
  • 3-10g of dried licorice root
  • 1-3g of dried osmanthus flower


  1. Clean any dirt or debris from the dried components by rinsing them under running water. Put the dried ingredients and the water in a large pot (you can wrap all the dry ingredients in cheesecloth to skip the straining step), and let it sit for an hour.
  2. Once everything has been soaked, boil them and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Keep it covered and at a simmer for 45 minutes. Rock sugar should be added and stirred until it dissolves, and then the heat should be turned off to cool the beverage.
  3. When ready, pour into a large serving pitcher and chill before serving over ice.
  4. Keep the leftovers in the fridge; they’ll keep for 3-4 days. If air bubbles are on top and the liquid is cloudy rather than clear, you can assume that the beverage has gone bad.
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