Mouthing Off

Would you drink hot water on a scorching summer’s day? Many Hongkongers do

  • Drinking hot water offers a number of potential health benefits to circulation and digestion
  • Many Hongkongers also drink hot cola with lemon as a cold remedy
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 12:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2018, 6:28pm

Of all the quirky local habits, one thing that many expats still can’t get their heads around is how Hongkongers enjoy drinking hot water.

We’re talking water boiled in the kettle and then poured into grandma’s old vacuum flask. Only it’s not just senior citizens who are drinking it. I even have hiking friends who still prefer heated water to cold drinks after climbing one of Lantau’s peaks. The content of their vacuum flask might not be scalding any more, but poured into a glass it’s hot enough to that you pull your hand back when you touch it.

Our love affair with chocolate goes back 1,500 years longer than we thought

In contrast, some Westerners don’t even like room temperature water; they have to add a couple of ice cubes before having a sip. For many, the only acceptable hot drinks are coffee or tea, or a night time mug of hot chocolate or warm milk if they have trouble sleeping. Other than that, they generally prefer their liquid cold.

In Hong Kong, generations of Chinese grandmothers have a preference for hot water. It’s not just because iced water hurts their sensitive gums or their irrational fear that too-cold liquid will give them an internal chill – the same way having wet hair or getting caught in the rain will cause a head cold. There is a sense that hot water is just more soothing and less stressful to the system.

Now, science is showing that they might have been right all along. Studies show that warm water helps blood circulation and protects internal organs. It aids digestion, calms the nervous system and decreases stress. If you have a cold, it can even help clear nasal congestion.

Some studies even claim that drinking hot water activates your metabolism thus encouraging weight loss. I’m surprised no commercial beauty clinic has tried to cash in by creating a grandma diet scheme.

“Drink your way to a slim and sexy figure with our special formulated thermo dihydrogen monoxide elixir. Just heat and drink daily. Available in three flavours: Bonaqua blue, Watsons with minerals, or delicious tap.”

A health-conscious friend explained her somewhat unscientific rationale for choosing hot water over something cold and brisk. “If you eat, for example, a greasy hamburger and then drink something cold, the fat will solidify and congeal in your insides. But hot water helps dissolve the fat. Think about your dishwasher. Cold water won’t cut the grease; hot water will.”

Afternoon tea is a phoney, anachronistic sham. It’s time to abolish it

I like to think my stomach acids will help break down my burger indulgence, but maybe there is some merit to the argument. People always talk about ordering cold drinks to “wash down” the food we’re eating. Perhaps we should try replacing the cold beer or iced lemon tea with something warmer.

Although there’re not a lot of options in restaurants.

Local options like hot lemon Coke or hot ginger Coke, which is supposed to be great for sore throats, is even weirder for non locals.

When I was growing up, I watched TV commercials that showed swimsuit models and sports stars chugging down cans of soda or juice from ice coolers. Now we have hipster hikers chilling in the wilderness and finding cold beer, and jazzy jingles about waiting for a girl like you to come into their life. They’ve all brainwashed us to want a cold one if you’re young and cool.

It’s counter-intuitive to want anything else, especially when it’s 33 degrees Celsius and humid.

Personally, I’m not sure I’m all in with the whole hot water thing yet, but now that it’s autumn and cooler weather is upon us, maybe I’ll have a few more bottles of hot Vitasoy milk from the convenience store.