Sunday, February 20, 2011

Korean teas, not just green

Light sends soft rays through the floor-length windows of Ga Hwa Dang, a traditional Korean hanok-turned-teahouse located in Samcheong-dong, Seoul.
Behind the counter, manager Kim Yu-ri painstakingly prepares the establishment’s brews.
Surprisingly enough, less than half the 19 teas on the menu are leaf-based. Instead, a majority are made with fruit, roots and seeds.

Ga Hwa Dang’s nutty and rich wild sesame tea comes with a dish of artistically presented Korean sweets. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) 

“Traditional (Korean) tea is incredibly tasty and healthy,” Kim explained the impetus behind her interest in the wide variety of fruit-and-plant beverages characteristic of Korea.
While tea generally refers to green and black teas made from Camellia sinensis leaves, in Korea the term encompasses a broad range of brews.
Green tea did have its heyday during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), but, according to Lee Hyo-ji’s “Food Culture of Korea” (Shinkwang Publishing Company, 2001), its prevalence diminished with the suppression of the Goryeo state religion, Buddhism, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897).
With the rise of Confucianism came the development of beverages brewed from fruit steeped in honey and various medicinal roots and plants.
The creation of new punches and teas were also influenced by the growing focus on curative and health-giving foods during the period.
Such practices remain a part of Korea’s tea culture, where, even today, artisans continue to develop new tonics and reinterpret classic drinks.
At Ga Hwa Dang, wild sesame tea ― customarily enjoyed as a no-frills beverage of ground wild sesame seeds and hot water ― has been revamped into a decadent yet wholesome beverage. (Korea Herald)

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