Still find the language of Traditional Chinese Medicine impenetrable? Cinci Leung is here to make its philosophy as accessible and palatable as drinking mocktails and surfing Facebook.
Inexplicable energy flow, bitter herbal tea and acupuncture, these are the things that leap to mind when one thinks of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Despite being one of oldest forms of treatment, the traditional Chinese cure has struggled to speak to 21st-century audiences. However, Cinci Leung, a 36-year-old Chinese Medicine practitioner, has pioneered a way to make the philosophy more palatable for today’s Hong Kong crowd. With CheckCheckCin, her TCM-based multi-channel healthcare brand taking in an app, social media channels, mocktail bars and a clinic, Cinci is determined to promote all-around wellness and popularise the TCM approach. Here, she tells us why we should get on board.
Hong Kong-born and bred, the first time Cinci truly experienced the magic of Chinese medicine was when she sprained her knee during a high school fitness exam. It was a TCM practitioner who cured her injury with a 15-minute Tui-na (Chinese manipulative therapy), sowing a seed of interest that grew and grew. A firm follower from that moment on, she headed into a job in marketing post-university. In her mid-twenties, however, the sudden death of her mentor and TCM practitioner convinced her that opportunity doesn’t wait, and Cinci quit her job and enrolled to study Traditional Chinese Medicine at The University of Hong Kong.
After five long years of training, in 2012, Cinci became a registered TCM practitioner, starting a small clinic out of her husband’s office in Central. But, the more she came in contact with patients, the more she discovered common misconceptions. “Many people feel like it’s just about bitter herbal tea and unrealistic dietary advice. Their knowledge of TCM is rather fragmented, and the lack of understanding towards their own body constitution has led to them making wrong diet choices,” she explains. So, CheckCheckCin began to take shape, initially as a Facebook page where Cinci shared her knowledge of Chinese Medicine philosophy.
Set up in 2016, CheckCheckCin, meaning ‘to check first’ in Cantonese, was conceptualised based on the TCM principle that everyone has their own unique body constitution influenced by everyday diet and lifestyle, and it follows Cinci’s philosophy of preventative healthcare. Through her colourful and playful infographics, it brought to life TCM theories that, for many, had been too complex or abstract to grasp. In less than two years, the page amassed a legion of followers that has now grown into a community of over 300k firm believers.
But Cinci’s ambition doesn’t end there. While broadcasting TCM philosophies through social media helps to spread health awareness, she wanted to translate the ‘likes’ on her posts into real lifestyle changes. “Hongkongers are so busy that they forget to take good care of themselves,” she explains. “So, I set out to create products and beverages that are convenient to take, and help you stay healthy.”
At the end of 2016, Cinci launched CheckCheckCin’s first mocktail tea bar in front of her new clinic in Sheung Wan, a neighbourhood next to Hong Kong’s bustling financial district. “I want to provide a tasty yet healthy alternative to the sugary Boba tea and coffee Hongkongers drink every day, so people actually want to try and eat healthier,” Cinci explains. Serving healthy, flavourful grab-and-go beverages freshly whipped up by trained mixologists, including fruity rice water, soy milk tea and herbal mocktails, the bar quickly gained the attention of time-pressed locals, harried professionals and tourists. Now, CheckCheckCin has five mocktail tea bar across across the city.
Determined to make TCM more approachable, all of CheckCheckCin’s products, including their mocktails and teas, are categorised by the eight classic body types in Chinese medicine and designed to provide a quick fix to an imbalanced body. But, instead of confusing customers with traditional jargon, Cinci has reinterpreted the terms as common symptoms that customers can relate to – think tiredness, stress etc, making her products easy to understand.
Recently, Cinci launched a mobile app designed to help workaholics quickly understand their constitution and regulate their diet accordingly. Beginning with a three-minute questionnaire which helps to determine the user’s body type, the app, which has a database of over 3000 dishes and ingredients, calculates what the person can and cannot eat based on the food that suits their body type.
“In TCM, one rule doesn’t fit all. Our platforms and products are an innovative way to educate the general public to always check their body type before taking on any treatment plans, fad diets, or general lifestyle changes,” says Cinci. As she sees it, achieving good health should not be complicated. Everyone can be their own doctor by making small changes in life, and these changes should always start with a better understanding of oneself.