Apologies for the cheesy title – I couldn’t resist.
It’s my first Korean Autumn. The intense humidity has finally abated, and I am eager to see the world turn red and gold. There’s no need to add ice to my morning coffee and I’m rediscovering the joy of warm tea in the evening. Being South African, I was one of many raised on Rooibos tea, and I usually turn my nose up at any other hot offerings on the tray. Korea has swayed my allegiances, however, and provided three new delightful brews to my kitchen.
옥수수 차 Oksusucha – Corn Tea
This roasted corn tea is a tad bitter, which makes it unpopular with some but quite refreshing for others. Similar to the omnipresent 보리차, or Barley Tea, it has a grainy and wholesome taste. Interestingly, it was marketed as a means of achieving a V-line: a Korean concept that refers to a certain face shape. While I highly doubt this tea will offer a slimmer face, it does help to ease digestion – as does the next tea on my list, Maesil.
매실 차 Maesilcha – Plum Tea
Maesil (pronounced “Meh-shil”) is a species of tree similar to plum and apricot that grows in East Asian countries. It’s toxic in its raw form, so is consumed in preserves, teas and even wine. I was first introduced to this tea in the summer, when the green fruit ripen and Maesil ice-tea is popular. If you avoid the over-sweetened bottled varieties of this tea, you’ll find it has a tart edge, and the cold version is sexy with Soju.
오미자 차 Omijacha – Omija Tea
So named because it’s made from the five-flavoured berries of the Omija plant (“Oh” means “five” in Korean), the tea is said to have sweet, salty, bitter, sour and pungent flavours. I was advised to drink it to soothe a sore throat, but – as the internet will tell you – it is reputed to solve a host of health problems.
All these are actually tisanes – or herbal infusions – rather than teas, as they don’t contain any tea leaves. They offer fruity aromas and, along with the golden Bae (Asian Pear) and rosy Majuang (Korean Wine), their warm colours add to the autumn shades that are slowly creeping their way through my city.
This article was originally published in ZenKimchi Food Journal.