The color of pomegranate white tea reminded me of one of my favorite Korean teas: omijacha. It literally means five-flavored tea and is supposed to satisfy the five distinct tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent). This tea, often slightly bitter to first time tea drinkers, is made of a berry from the schisandra chinensis vine originating from China and is used in herbal medicine. The red berries have healing properties that can open up the airways of asthmatic individuals or soothe the raspiest cough. They're also known for keeping the liver healthy and helping digestion among other properties. Don't take my complete word for it! You'll have to try it yourself! No one individual reacts the same way. If it doesn't work for you, just enjoy knowing you're filling your body with something tasty and healthy! I'm down for a cup of omijacha any day.
Once I was settled, I browsed the menu. Because it was my first time ordering tea in Korea, I chose something that sounded flavorful and looked pretty. Of course I don't judge a book by it's cover or a person by his looks! I just have a peculiar interest and obsession with the presentation of food and beverage. Presentation is half the taste. If it looks good, it should taste [at least a little] good! All that to say I chose the iced omijacha to soothe my soul and cool down on a day of humid delight. How was it? Delightful! A little sweet, bitter, pungent, sour, and salty! Well, honestly speaking I couldn't make out all of the flavors. If you sip it slowly you may just sample them all!
You could say my first, and definitely not my last, tea experience was amazing! It didn't hurt to be in the presence of some fun friends. I knew I loved tea. However, this experience developed a long-lasting relationship and devotion to Korean tea houses not to mention omijacha. Ultimately, the omijacha sampling experience sent my taste buds into a heightened sense of happy joy and me on a journey to sampling omijacha at as many venues and in as many forms as possible. I even purchased those tasteless instant packages from the Lotte supermarket more than once!
|my first cup of omijacha on a very hot day|
Two years after my first experience, a Japanese friend came to visit me in South Korea. It was February '10, the dead of winter-one of the coldest winters Korea experienced in a long while! After a freezing day trip to Nami Island, a beautiful island in the Gangwando province, known to be a great place for lovers and the site of the drama filming, "Winter Sonata" we found our way back to Seoul. A warm tea house and a hot cup of tea were the only things that made sense!. We found our way into a special tea house hidden away up a flight of stairs in Insadong. Insadong is a more traditional part of Seoul packed with tourists looking for the ultimate Korean experience. Although seemingly quaint and small from the outside, the room was well lit and very comfortable. It had the perfect mix of traditional and modern tea-house styles. I happily ordered my omijacha. Without question, my friend and I ordered it hot on that frigid day. Another cup of pure bliss to satisfy the senses. For non omijacha drinkers, there are many other options such as yujacha (citrus), insamcha, (ginger), oksusucha (corn), etc. Be adventurous and dive into the selection of other traditional and herbal teas!
|a much needed hot cup of omijacha|
By now you've realized I love omijacha and tea houses!
For more information on tea drinking spots you can read an article at http://mattbites.com about a few tea houses in Seoul including one similar to the one my friend and I visited in Insadong. Matt is passionate about food and knows how to make it look good, too! He and his partner were traveling in Korea and happened to explore a little bit of the tea scene in Seoul. Check out their take on tea in Seoul!
What is your favorite tea and where are your favorite tea houses?
Happy tea drinking my fellow tea lovers!