Edible Curios: These Three Teas of Orient Are

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.

(Source: Wee Keat Chin)

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.

(Source: Adrian Monk)

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.

(Source: Satomi Abe)

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.

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7 responses to “Edible Curios: These Three Teas of Orient Are

  1. A bracing cycle to school this morning spelled foreboding for the months to come, but great news for tea drinking. Bring on the good brews of winter time. Lovely article.

  2. Oh my, I had the corn tea the other day and it was great. I have yet to find a good version of the plum tea, though. That was probably my favorite tea while I lived in Seoul. Awesome blog you have, I really enjoy it.

      • Oolong’s nice! yeah, not much of a tea person but I’ve had it in settings in Paarl and Blomfontein where there wasn’t any other option so that’s how I got acquainted with Rooibos 🙂 then again in Iraq of all placess!

  3. The plum tea has mu curiosity going… Nicely described!…could just imagine what it tasted like 🙂 With rooibos as your benchmark ( I truly enjoyed rooibos) I can just imagine how good these other versions are.

    • Nothing like Rooibos is there? I am not wildly impressed by any other teas available in South Africa – apart from some imported ones. I only began to appreciate tea and tisanes after moving to Korea, and finally understood the human obsession with tea after trying Oolong and Jasmine at a tasting in Beijing. It was akin to a wine or whiskey tasting, without the hangover!

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