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Sip your way to a healthy start with a warming cup of shōgayu, or Honey Ginger Tea! Not only is it a potent cold and flu remedy, but ginger tea also boasts a myriad of health benefits. Learn how to make a simple cup at home and enjoy it all winter long.
During the frigid winter months when cold and flu are rampant, I am reminded to take good care of my family by cooking the right kind of food. One of my favorite wellness traditions is to make a big pot of shōgayu (生姜湯)— honey ginger tea. This soothing tea with a spicy kick is known for its ability to warm up the body and keep the cold at bay.
What is Shōgayu?
Shōgayu (生姜湯) translates to ‘ginger hot water’ and is a simple tea made by steeping ginger in hot water and sweetening it with honey. It is also a popular home remedy in Japan, passed down for generations to fight off common colds.
What Makes Ginger Tea Healthy?
It is the active compound found in ginger called gingerol that gives the rhizome both its spicy bite and its medicinal properties. You will feel the immediate warming effect by drinking a strong cup of ginger tea. This is why ginger tea has been used as a traditional cold remedy throughout Asia for hundreds of years.
More Health Benefits of Ginger Tea
Proven in both Asian and Western medicines, ginger can help strengthen the immune system and fight inflammation. Besides treating colds, drinking ginger tea can also offer benefits such as:
- Soothing a sore throat and suppressing a cough
- Boosting circulation
- Settling an upset stomach
- Preventing motion sickness and nausea, without the side effects of drowsiness
- Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure
5 Ingredients You’ll Need
- Ginger – Considered a spice, ginger is a rhizome of a flowering plant that we use for cooking. The knobby underground stem has thin tanned skin with yellow or cream-colored flesh. When harvested early, young ginger is tender and has a juicy and mildly sweet flavor. Mature ginger is fibrous and tough, with a sharp, spicy taste. I usually use mature ginger for my shogayu.
- Water or tea – I often keep mine simple by using just plain filtered water, but you can change it up by adding tea leaves like green tea or black tea.
- Honey (or your choice of sweetener) – You can leave out any sweetener if you prefer, but I do enjoy adding a little honey when I make shogayu. Honey helps to neutralize the spiciness and makes the tea more appetizing. As we all know, honey has its health properties and can help to soothe the throat. The kids will have no excuse not to drink it too! Tip: If you want to keep the full benefits of the honey, add honey once the tea has cooled to 122°F or 50°C as a high temperature can kill the enzymes and antioxidants in the honey.
- Citrus (optional, but recommended) – Citrus fruits such as lemon, yuzu, Meyer lemon, or orange not only add a touch of fragrance to the tea, but they are also packed with Vitamin C. If you want to double up the benefits of the tea, I highly recommend adding it. You can either add a squeeze of the citrus juice and/or the zest. I usually use freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Potato starch or cornstarch (optional, but highly recommended!) – Some Japanese people, including myself, like to add starch to their shogayu as it helps to thicken the tea and retain the heat. Mr. JOC had ginger tea before he met me and gave me a suspicious look when I mentioned my ginger tea with starch. After he tried my ginger tea, he liked this style. I’ll tell you more about the benefits of adding starch below.
How to Make Honey Ginger Tea (Shogayu)
- Grate ginger. I love using this ceramic grater.
- In a saucepan, add water and ginger. Mix well together and bring it to a simmer.
- Make a slurry by mixing cold water and potato starch (or cornstarch).
- Once simmering, lower the stove’s heat and add the honey and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Slowly drizzle the slurry into the ginger tea and stir well until thickened slightly.
- Serve shogayu in a teacup and enjoy!
Why Adding Potato Starch (Cornstarch) to Shogayu?
I assume the majority of you have your ginger tea without starch. That’s a more common way to enjoy it in Asia. Why do we add starch to the ginger tea? Let me share the three benefits!
- Retain heat. You can enjoy the warm drink for a much longer time.
- You get to enjoy the ginger bits in every sip! Shogayu with starch keeps the ginger pieces afloat. If you need a visual reference, it’s similar to the Chinese sweet and sour soup where all the ingredients are suspended in the soup. Well, my ginger tea is not as thick as the soup, but you get my point. If you don’t use starch, all the ginger bits settle at the bottom of the cup.
- Soothe your throat. If you have a sore throat, thick ginger tea will soothe your throat as you drink it. I can’t recommend it enough!
3 Important Tips to Remember
- Hold the peeled ginger root so the fibers are perpendicular to the grater. The fibers in ginger run from the top to the bottom of the root. If you grate from the top or the bottom, grated ginger will not include many fibers, and your grater won’t clog. If the ginger has too much fiber, slice off the fibers with a knife before continue grating.
- Use cold water to make a slurry. Warm or hot water will immediately thicken the mixture. The water-to-starch ratio is 1 to 1. Make sure to mix well right before you add the slurry because starch tends to suspend at the bottom of the slurry.
- Be careful when you reheat thicker ginger tea as it may splatter. Heat concentrates more easily in a viscous liquid, which allows steam vapor to expand until it is large enough to explode and make a mess.
Frequent Asked Questions
How long do you steep ginger?
The longer you steep the ginger in the simmering water, the stronger and spicier it will taste. For my ginger tea, I bring the tea to a simmer, and that’s good enough, but feel free to adjust as you like. If you cook for a longer time, reduce the amount of the starch by half as more water has evaporated.
Can I skip honey (or lemon)?
Yes, they are optional. I recommend making it with honey (or lemon) for your first try, and you may skip it later if you don’t like it. Plain ginger tea without honey is quite strong.
My ginger tea is too thick. What do I do?
It’s possible that moisture continued to evaporate from the leftover ginger tea in the pot. If your ginger tea is thicker than what you like, add water, mix really well, and reheat.
How long does ginger tea last?
If you make a big batch, you can store it in the refrigerator overnight; however, I recommend consuming it soon. If the tea has gotten too thick, add water when you reheat.
The Elixir to Sip Shogayu All Winter or All Year Long
If there is one drink that can help boost your mood and health during the winter, this is it! Down with a cold, stomach flu, or sore throat? Have a few hot cups of ginger tea (in addition to other necessary treatments, of course). It is a sure way to reduce the symptoms!
I even know some people who drink ginger tea all year long and credit it for their youthfulness and good health!
Other Healthy Drinks You’ll Enjoy
- Matcha Latte
- Buckwheat Tea (Sobacha)
- Green Tea: A Century Old Japanese Drink for Better Health
- Hojicha Latte or Cold Brew Hojicha
- Green Tea Smoothie
Honey Ginger Tea (Shōgayu)
Sip your way to a healthy start with a warming cup of Shōgayu, or Honey Ginger Tea! Not only is it a potent cold and flu remedy, but ginger tea also boasts a myriad of health benefits. Learn how to make a simple cup at home and enjoy it all winter long.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
- ▢ 1 Tbsp ginger (grated, with juice; from a big knob 2 inches, 5 cm)
- ▢ 2 cups water
- ▢ 2 Tbsp honey (optional)
- ▢ 1–2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Gather all the ingredients.
With a knife, cut off the tough ends of the ginger root and scrape off the skin. If the skin is hard, peel the skin instead. Using a grater (I use a ceramic grater that I love), grate the ginger against the grain.
Tip: Hold the ginger vertically against the grater’s teeth. Grate the end of the ginger root to avoid grating off its fibers, which run lengthwise along the root from one end to the other.
When the fibers start to appear and interfere with grating, cut off the fibers with a knife. This allows you to grate more ginger. Gather 1 Tbsp ginger, grated and with the juice, from the grater.
In a medium saucepan, add 2 cups water and the grated ginger. If you have more juice collected in the grater, you can add it to the saucepan.
Mix and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
Meanwhile, make a slurry by combining 1 Tbsp water and ½ Tbsp potato starch or cornstarch. Mix the mixture well.
Once simmering, lower the heat and add 2 Tbsp honey and 1–2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stir to make sure the honey is completely dissolved. Tip: If you want to keep the full benefits of the honey, add honey once the tea has cooled to a "warm" temperature, about 122°F or 50°C, as a high temperature can kill the enzymes and antioxidants in the honey.
Quickly mix the slurry one more time, making sure the starch and water are not separated. Drizzle the slurry into the pot of ginger tea and quickly stir the tea well with a ladle to avoid lumps.
When the ginger tea is slightly thickened, serve it in cups and put a lemon slice on top (optional). Enjoy!
Keep the leftovers in the refrigerator overnight. Consume soon. If the ginger tea gets too thick as it sits, dilute it with water and mix well when you reheat.
Honey Ginger Tea (Shōgayu)
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 19, 2022. It was republished with a new video on February 9, 2024.
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I'm Nami, a Japanese home cook based in San Francisco. Have fun exploring the 1000+ classic & modern Japanese recipes I share with step-by-step photos and How-To YouTube videos.
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