I DON'T know why Westerners pooh-pooh Chinese medicine. It's not that different from East Coast American medicine as practised by generations of New York mothers in the late 40s. They may not have dabbled in powdered antelope horn or ginseng root but my childhood memories are filled with a variety of natural potions and elixirs that were concocted to keep youngsters fit and healthy. Each night there were tumblers of honey water, to keep me nice and sweet. Then the morning dose of cod liver oil. Taken with my eyes shut, the smelly, strong-testing, caramel coloured substance was spooned into us. Even the freshly squeezed orange juice chaser was a sly part of the formula. It took a tenacious germ to get past all our natural preventive remedies with the result that a case of sniffles was a rarity. When a sneeze did sneak through, nobody ran off to the corner drugstore. Instead, steaming hot bowls of chicken soup (lovinglyreferred to as ''Jewish penicillin'') materialised from the kitchen. So, when the charming little Big Paradise Tea Room opened last summer, I was most intrigued. The half-a-dozen sheets of paper taped to its windows appeared to contain highly technical medical information about mushrooms. As the data was all in Chinese, I ventured inside and sought out the proprietor. Much younger than I had expected and engagingly articulate about his tea, Avin Yiu sat at one of the five small rosewood tables on matching stools and chatted. The room is impeccably clean without appearing sterile. The floor-to-ceiling windows look out on to Harbour Road and the passing parade. Mushrooms play a major role in the interior decor. There's a large, colourful mural depicting the mushrooms growing in their native woodsy habitat, a scroll painting of the precious fungi and various plaster and ceramic replicas of the mushrooms on the counter. Avin enthused about these ''magic mushrooms'' and their curative and preventive powers. According to him, imbibing the tea brewed from the Lin-Chee mushrooms on a regular basis can: Help increase the capacity for oxygen intake; Strengthen the body's defence systems; Increase one's ''killer'' cell production; Inhibit growth of tumours; Assist in either lowering or raising blood pressure; Cure insomnia, constipation and ulcers; Do away with indigestion problems. In fact, so successful has Lin-Chee been in living up to its diverse promises in Japan and mainland China, that it is now being referred to as the ''holy mushroom'' by its legions of devotees. ''I was so impressed by the mushrooms' capabilities and the overwhelming number of testimonials, it gave me the idea for the name of my tea room,'' said Avin. Understanding English may be a problem if Avin is not on the premises, but the visitor need not worry. Just point to what you want. The tea was very tasty, not bitter or strong as I had expected and just $18 a cup. Avin said that the Lin-Chee mushrooms must be boiled and steeped for hours, with some sweet Chinese dates added to give the brew its pleasing flavours. Trying the Lin-Chee in soup form was Avin's suggestion. The broth turned out to be even better than the tea. With thin slices of pear and apple and a handful of crunchy apricot kernels swimming around in the clear, hot liquid, it was quite delicious and the portion, at $25, was ample. In addition to the tea and soup, the Lin-Chee mushrooms are also made into a kind of clear jelly which can be consumed in the tea room or taken away ($38 per container). The rest of the menu includes rice wine and a ginseng tea. Avin knows what he's doing. Every time I've passed, there are two or three evidently health-conscious souls sitting and sipping in this unique little tea room, the only one of its kind in Hongkong. My grandmother would have certainly approved. Big Paradise Tea Room, Harbour Centre, 25 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Tel: 8278376.