Coffee Alternative: Buddha’s Hand with Cherries Tea

Estimated read time... 6 minutes


My piece de resistance blend of the moment, now that I’ve quit coffee, is new crop sencha green tea, sour cherries, dried Buddha’s Hand, and fresh ginger. Sometimes I’ll add teensy bit of raw honey, just to give it a little more sweetness and body.  Other times, I’ll leave out the green tea and use tulsi instead.

As you can see, this has a lovely rich color, it is light but has substance, and when I drink it I sigh.  I always sighed while drinking my coffee and eating my chocolate, so I know this is hitting something deep within that my body is saying “yes!” to, and an attempt at correcting an imbalance.

(For those of you who want to know what sighing means in Chinese Medicine, it’s a sign of Liver Qi Stagnation.  The sigh after drinking this means that there is a release of stagnant Liver Qi, and that I clearly still have a stagnant Liver. Sigh, always something to improve upon.)


Get a large glass heat-proof pitcher or other vessel (to fit 8 cups)

  • Into your pitcher, place:
    • 1 piece of Buddha’s hand
    • 1 small handful of dried sour cherries (unsweetened) about 8-20 cherries*
    • 2 slices of fresh ginger
  • Bring a quantity of water to a near boil in a pot (7-8 cups), add 3 teaspoons of Sencha green tea (I use flatware teaspoons, not measuring spoons). Cover and let steep for 2 mins.
  • Strain the tea into the pitcher with the herbs, and let steep for 10+ minutes.
  • Pour into a mug and drink with a touch of honey, if desired.
  • Store in the refrigerator up to four days.  Remove the piece of Buddha’s hand after 12 hours.  (You can leave the Buddha’s hand piece in the tea, but I have found that it makes the tea a little too bitter for my taste. You may also remove it sooner than 12 hours if you would like to experiment with the flavor profile.)
  • Reheat the tea on the stovetop, in the quantity as desired; or, drink slightly cool or at room temperature.


By the third or fourth day, the tea will become ruby-tinged.  Enjoy the different flavors that this tea progresses through!

I might even add cardamom for those days that are chilly or wet, especially since it is one of my favorite herbs/spices.


Some notable benefits since drinking this tea: clearer and more luminous skin, warmer hands and feet, better body temperature regulation in general, overall better digestion and assimilation, absolutely no cravings for chocolate or coffee whatsoever, the desire to eat breakfast first thing in the morning, and better distribution of energy and focus throughout the day.

Did you make the tea?

What do you think about it?

What have you noticed about how it behaves in your body?

Please share your experiences in the comments section below.



Here are the Chinese Medicine reasons why each element is included in this tea blend:


Green tea (lu cha in Chinese) – is sweet, bitter and cooling.  It is affiliated with the Stomach, Heart and Lung Organs/Meridians.  It clears the head, harmonizes the Stomach (symptoms: nausea, indigestion, diarrhea), reduces fidgetiness and thirst, and dispels Dampness (this is due to a weak digestive system, and can be caused by external environmental factors such as a damp climate or eating dampening foods). While green tea contains caffeine, the benefits of the polyphenols, EGCG and l-theanine outweigh most adverse effects from caffeine for most people.  Your mileage may vary.


Cherries, Sour (shuan yin tao) – are warming, moistening, sweet, and they tonify the Qi and Blood while also moving Blood. They are associated with the Spleen, Stomach, and Kidneys and some sources cite the Liver or Heart also being part of the equation. Cherries are known to help eliminate excess body acids, and are beneficial for those who feel cold on a regular basis.  They are also a rejuvinative, benefit the skin and body, strengthen the Spleen and stimulate the appetite, quench thirst and prolong life. Additionally, cherries are high in iron and help with anemia.


Buddha’s hand (fo shou) – is less drying than dried orange peel, and is fast becoming one of my favorite gentle Liver Qi regulating herbs.  It is acrid and bitter; it is also warming, and penetrates to the Liver, Spleen, Stomach and Lungs. Compared to coffee’s Qi dredging properties, Buddha’s hand spreads and regulates Liver Qi providing long-lasting benefits without the mess left behind.  It is commonly used to harmonize the Stomach and strengthen the Spleen (meaning: the key symptoms of this pattern are: epigastric pain, fullness and distention, lack of appetite and belching and/or nausea).  In other words, this herb not only gets and keeps your Liver’s energy/Qi moving smoothly, but it also wakes up your digestive system.

(Note: this herb is not to be used alone, or in large amounts over a long period of time.)


Fresh ginger (sheng jiang) – is a warm, spicy herb that is affiliated with the Lungs, Spleen and Stomach.  It is often used in formulas to circulate the herbs through the body, and to relieve any digestive discomfort or toxicity of the other herbs in a formula.  In this case, ginger is used to warm the Stomach and Spleen.  Dried ginger may also be used, but it is much warmer (hot!) and acts differently enough in my body that fresh ginger is best used.


Honey is utilized as a remedy for dryness (throat, mouth, bowels), and is considered a panacea by many. Here, it tonifies the digestive system (Spleen/Stomach in CM).


In short: Between Buddha’s hand and cherries, there is Qi and Blood movement, and the cherries tonify Blood, which make for a more balanced combination than coffee can offer. Fresh ginger has the added benefit of increasing the flow of bile, something that coffee does offer! Green tea can perk you up with the minimal amount of caffeine, but also help create balance and not draw upon your Kidney’s reserves, when combined with the other herbs in this blend.


*Cons: I have found that this does not stimulate peristalsis the way that coffee does.  If you are reliant upon coffee to promote your morning constitutional, you will meet with an interesting transitional period.  If you tend towards constipation, use the smaller amount of cherries in this recipe.


My advice during this transitional period between being a coffee drinker and a non-coffee drinker? 

– Ensure that you are getting enough fiber in your diet – this makes a world of difference!

An easy way to get enough fiber is to have a cooked salad of greens (I like kale), avocado and tomato with a small amount of salad dressing as your “salad” during lunch or dinner.  This yields approximately 12g of fiber (nearly half of your fiber intake for the day).

– Move every day, walk, run, bike, dance, yoga, qi gong, whatever works for you, do it.

Additionally, pick one and give it a try for a week:

– Eat 2-3 dried plums after dinner, take 2 tablets of Triphala before bed, or have a cup of hot water with a squeeze of lime (or lemon) and a pinch of salt upon rising to get things moving.

– Take digestive bitters before meals.

– Include small amounts ferments and probiotics into your daily dietary intake. (Avoid kombucha as it is yeast based.)

– You can also rub your belly in a clockwise direction with or without oil.  If you would like an oil to use, I prefer St. John’s Wort as it has antispasmodic properties that can help soothe an irritated gut.


Sourcing Buddha’s hands and possible alternatives:

Buddha’s hands may be found in specialty markets and “high end” food stores as a fresh citrus.  Dean and Deluca, Gourmet Garage, Fairway, Whole Foods are all stores where I have found this fruit fresh. Look for firm fruits that are free of blemishes, with a nice color that has no green.

If you are using dried fruit, as I am, you can head to your local Chinatown herb shop and ask for “fo shou”. It should be in the $20/lb range.  It should be green/yellow in color, and free of debris.

Pearson Ranch in California appears to have finger citron/Buddha’s hand for $45/5 fruits.  If you slice then dry them yourself, you will have tea for many years to come! They are harvested for a short time beginning in October, and the quantity is limited.  (I have not ordered or worked with this company in the past, if you do order from them please comment on your experience with them here, please.)


If you cannot find, or afford, this delicacy:

Try combining dried rose petals (or rose buds) with dried orange peels and use those instead.  I would suggest something like 3TB rose petals and 2TB dried orange peel to help mimic the actions of Buddha’s hand.

As fo shou/Buddha’s hand is spicy, bitter and slightly warm, the orange peel and rose petals will also contribute spiciness, bitterness, warmth, sweetness and an aromatic quality to the tea.  Between these two herbs, you will also get the benefits of opening up the Liver, Lung, Spleen and Stomach meridians/Organs.  I would not have this as a daily tea in the long-term though, as dried orange peel is quite drying to the Yin of the body, whereas Buddha’s hand is not.

If you try this alternative combination, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.




Some of the sources I referred to when writing the coffee series of posts:

Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods Revised Edition

Ni, The Tao of Nutrition 3rd Edition

East West School of Planetary Herbology Professional Herbalist course materials

Bensky, Materia Medica 3rd Edition

Kamwo’s Herb App

TCM ClinicAid App