Elwood 5566

Cereal Teas – Black Bean Tea (까만콩)

Posted in Food and Drink, tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on July 31, 2011

I’ve only seen this tea in bottles though I believe you can buy it in tea bag form. The bottled variety is quite an unusual tea in that it is creamy, almost like milk, while being totally watery. Most drinks with zero calories are ‘just’ okay, this one is actually more and has a very distinct and enjoyable taste.

black bean tea

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Korean Teas: Solomon's Seal Tea – 둘굴레 차

Posted in Food and Drink, oriental Medicine, tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on June 26, 2011

I prefer it cold when it is wonderfully refreshing

Specifics: Solomon’s Seal (둥굴레 차). Made from a root but available in tea bags.

Okay, you can easily buy this in boxes of 50 or so tea bags at most decent stores. However, if you’ve wandered around Korean markets you may actually have seen this tea’s  main ingredients, in the form of dried roots looking a little like brown turmeric.

the roots, according to one company, are 'pan fried' to dry them

Solomon’s Seal is a tea made from the roots of plants bearing the same name. The plant is one of an extensive group, similar to lilies, and known by its botanical name, Polygonatum. The species in Korea, is specifically Polygonatum Sibiricum. The Korean species is particularly noted for its medicinal properties due to its demulcent properties, that is its ability to soothe and protect swollen ligaments and tissue.  However, it has numerous other applications and widespread medicinal uses. Naturally, it can also be enjoyed simply as a beverage.

Solomon's Seal tea bags

Like most of the Korean teas I drink, I usually drink it cold and it is probably one of my more favourite teas with a distinct flavour which lacks any bitterness and is quite smooth. It has a slightly sweet smell which is reminiscent of caramel.

'caramel' aroma

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Sucking a Crystal Failed to Realign my Wonky Teeth (Kombucha and Pas 파스)

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse Ballads, Health care, oriental Medicine, tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on February 27, 2011

commercial kombucha

Podcast 73

You can probably buy them back home, I’ve never looked, and you can certainly buy something similar in spray form. Medicines work better when you haven’t a  clue what they do. The addition of a language you can’t read plus the fact the ‘medicine’ is traditional, and we all know the allure of oriental traditions in western culture,  lends a mystique to the product in which we tend to put more faith than in western medicine, and in which some put excessive faith. Of course, there may be some truth in the power of positive thinking which can boost our health and possibly rid our bodies of cancers and impurities so, I don’t want to be too dismissive of products which help to wish yourself well.

a wide choice of ‘pase’ (파스)

So, for the last month I’ve been laid up with painful knees caused by too many trips down the local mountainside. My injuries stem from October, shortly after an eye infection (red-eye) stopped me using the gym and bathhouse. Instead, I took to the mountains and overdid it and because I go down uneven ground, left-leg leading, I’ve had persistent problems with that knee. The bout of red-eye I contracted began on the very evening of the autumn festival (ch’u-sok), so it was only to be expected that the problems with my knees would flare up on the very eve of the Lunar New Year.

as advertised on TV

Then I was recommended these large patches (파스) that you basically stick  wherever you have a pain. You can buy them in any chemist where they are available in different sizes. And though I can’t read what the patches are supposed to do, I am confident that the miraculous powers of crystal crap are at work. Not only do some of the patches chill the area under them, numbing any pain, but they smell like they might work. There are many different brands and while some are impregnated with conventional analgesics, others seem to be based on oriental formulas or possibly an east meets west medicinal fusion a little similar to pizza and jam or don gasse and tinned fruit. On my second night of wearing them, I went to bed looking like something from Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, and on every area of my body where I had an ache or soreness, and I discovered a few, I stuck  a plaster. I was sure they were working, that was until my doctor (of western medicine) told me all theywould do is reduce pain and totally lacked any further potential.

wtf?

Where the cold light of science doesn’t shine to dismiss the incredible, we find sanctuary and it’s amazing the things we will subject ourselves to once we’ve taken solace in the concept – which is really no different from religion. A few years ago I spent 18 months brewing a living jelly mold in a warm, dark corner of my house. Every few days I would tap off  the liquid on which it floated. Kombucha is a drink believed to have numerous health benefits if drunk on a regular basis but it is difficult to prompt a thirst for it when it’s basically moldy water. However, in fairness, it was palatable and a cross between a mild vinegar and apple juice. It is also mildly alcoholic (0.5%). I have since tried commercial kombucha and it was very refreshing, if not expensive. Kombucha tea is easy to grow and you can birth yourself a batch with a cup of cold, sweetened tea and within a month or so, you too can have a ‘mother’ sized jelly pancake from which you can make other batches at an accelerated rate. I have also heard of people eating the mold, also known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), by frying it. I found it too gelatinous and phlegmy to enjoy. Interestingly, kombucha has a long history throughout various parts of the world, including Russia, Japan and Korea. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the name ‘kombu’  may have derived from Korea and mold in Korean is kom-bang-i (곰팡이).

a kombucha ‘scoby’ which provides the culture for future offspring

a ‘scoby’ looking somewhat scabby

My faith in both the kombucha and passe patches (파스) of the non-analgesic variety is borne out of my faith in the mystical powers of eastern medicine and it is the same faith which spurs crystal crap in general as well as the wider interest in Feng Shui (known in Korea as 풍수). The one problem with alternative medicine is that credible practices are lumped together with totally loony ones. I am skeptical, but selectively so and for example; with muscle aches, strains and sprains, or joint problems, I go to an oriental doctor before a western one. Crystal crap however, just seems to lack credibility. I have had several friends give me small crystals with instructions on where to place them and then been told they would ‘heal me’ or help promote ‘good health.’ What I find rather amusing is that in the west such crystals are always pretty and do make lovely ornaments, if that’s your thing, but no one ever suggests you to put a lump of charcoal by your bed, and charcoal is used in Korean bathhouses, and no one ever tells you to use something ugly like coal or a chink of flint.  And neither would I mind being recommended some crystal therapy with an ounce of jade except for the fact I’ve bathed and saunaed in, and slept on a couple of tons of it. Every time I go to the bathhouse I end up bathing in one pool or another, or one sauna room where the walls are made from something, jade being the most common, which is supposed to benefit the body,  yet  I seem no more benefited by such elusive powers than someone who has never set foot in a bathhouse. Perhaps I lack the faith to will myself well when it comes to crystals but, until sucking a crystal can rectify a badly rotted set of teeth, I will retain my scepticism.

homemade kombucha, actually, quite palatable

Yes, the patches reduced pain and the the kombucha was fun to make and tasted okay!

Chinese names for kombucha include:

红茶菌 – red fungus tea

红茶菇 – red mold tea

茶霉菌 – tea mold.

In Japanese it is known as ‘red tea mushroom‘ – 紅茶キノコ

Interested in kombucha – click this link.

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Korean Teas – Cassia Tora Linne (결명자차)

Posted in tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on September 15, 2010

with a fruity, sweet aroma

Specifics: Cassia Tora Linne  / cassia obtusifolia linne  Senna obtusifolia (Chinese Senna or Sicklepod) 決明子茶. Made from roasted seeds.

Personally, I prefer this tea chilled when it is very refreshing with a fruity, sweet aroma. The taste is slightly dark with the very slightest bitterness in the back ground. The fruity taste, quite distinct and pleasant, resembles lychee and this remains for quite a while, as an after taste.

Cassia Tora Linne (결명자)


The plant is a legume and resembles the ground nut with yellow buttercup-like flowers. The plant has some medicinal uses such as combating ringworm and also has laxative properties. However, drinking the commercial tea won’t leave you running for the loo.

Tea bags are readily available in places like E-marte where I have uses between 2 and 3 large tea bags per 3 liters of water.

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Korean Teas: Barley Tea – (보리차)

Posted in tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on August 26, 2010

Sugar Puff water minus the sugar

Specifics: A cereal tea made from roasted barley. The tea can be made from commercially available roasted barley of purchased in tea bags ranging from single cup size to larger bags sufficient to make a litre.

Perhaps this drink, more than any other, reminds me of Korea, especially if I drink it in the UK. When I’m living in the UK a store of barley tea (보리차) or the closely related corn tea (옥수수차), are always on my shopping list. Some drinks don’t ‘transport’ well; soju for example, needs Korean weather, Korean food and a Korean ambiance to be fully appreciated but most of the cereal teas both taste the same and don’t seem out-of-place a couple of thousands miles from their point of origin.

Barley tea, made from roasted barley, can be bought as whole grain, in tea bags or already bottled. I have drunk most of the bottled varieties and don’t like them as they are often bitter and naturally, some preservative has been added. The tea bags however, make a decent drink. You can drink barley tea both hot or cold. I seldom drink it hot but along with my favourite ‘tea,’ mistletoe (겨우사리),  have a two liter bottle in my fridge most of the time. Like all Korean teas, they are ‘just’ (그냥), so don’t expect anything startling. It lacks any tartness and has a mild  barley taste, reminiscent of sugar-less  Sugar Puffs. However, at quenching your thirst in hot weather or after a workout, Barley tea, like many other ‘teas,’ are superior to any sugary chemical concoction and infinitely cheaper (unless you buy it bottled). I tend to use a large tea bag per 1.5 liters, in the case the tea is almost the same darkness as milk-less conventional teas but I suspect many Koreans drink it much weaker.

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Korean Teas: Summer Refreshment – Korean Bamboo Leaf Tea (대잎 차)

Posted in plants and trees, tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on August 18, 2010

Bamboo leaf tea

Specifics: A leaf tea available in tea bags but not easy to find. Specialist deli type shops often stock it.

In summer, I prefer water or a chilled, non sweetened cereal drink or a tea as a refreshment. My favourite is probably mistletoe tea (겨우살이) but a close contender is bamboo  leaf tea (데잎 차) The tea comes in bags which can be a little difficult to find though it can be bought in other forms. I couldn’t buy the bags in my local E-Mart or Home Plus but I know two small delicatessen type shops which sell them.

I have to be honest, making the tea is hit and miss and I still haven’t worked out the best way to make it. Several times I have made a very refreshing brew but repeating this seems temperamental and on some occasions the tea has been almost tasteless. When right however, the flavour is subtle and distinct and bears a similarity to mistletoe – a very mild lemony tang without any tartness or bitterness.

Not to be confused with Green bamboo leaf - green tea - which is from China!

Like most things that taste ‘just,’ (그냥), bamboo leaf tea has those beneficial qualities,’ it is supposedly a detoxicant and can even help you lose weight. Don’t get me wrong, I love these types of tea but can draw a distinction between refreshing and delicious.  A high quality milkshake is delicious – bamboo water is ‘just’ but on  a hot day or a sweaty training session, the milkshake comes second.

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Mistletoe – Viscum album Coloratum (겨우살이) Not Just for Kissing Under

Posted in herbs and 'woods', plants and trees, tea (cereal, herb) by 노강호 on May 15, 2010

Specifics: a tea made with leafs and branches. I have only seen this being sold in bundles either in the mountains or street markets. It is not always easy and more common in spring. I would be very cautious of using this in Europe as the species may be poisonous, from the little I know the berries are. I can’t find any reference to its use as a tea in the West, though I have not searched extensively.

A few months ago I noticed a little old lady street vendor selling, amongst other things, what appeared to be mistletoe. I was intrigued as of course, in the West it is usually only ever seen at Christmas when it is used to kiss under. Like most of my Korean friends,when asked about this plant, none had the slightest idea what it was,  nor any interest.

Kayasan National Park

On Children’s Day, I went to  Kayasan National Park (가야산)  which is a short distance from Daegu. As is the custom on such days, we made a ‘pilgrimage’ to the Haeinsa (해인사) Temple, one of Korea’s most important temples and home to Korean National Treasure No. 52, the Tripitaka Koreana. These comprise 81.340 woodblock templates, carved in the 13th century and forming the most accurate, oldest, and extensive treatise of Buddhist law and scripture.  With full foliage not yet set on surrounding trees, I noticed ‘balls’ of what appeared to be mistletoe growing on their upper branches. I was quite excited, an excitement my friends find quite strange and eccentric. None of them could tell me what they were but their interest was microscopically sparked when I pointed out to them that the leaf shape on the balls, only just visible, differed from that  on the surrounding branches. And then we stopped by a small ‘kiosk’ selling the customary objects found in such locations, dried mushrooms, steaming silk worm cocoons, – various fresh mountain greens, herbs, onions and wood, and in one corner, a large pile of mistletoe, instantly recognizable and available either fresh or cut and dried at 10.000W (£6) a large bag.

'Balls' of mistletoe can be seen in distant the tree tops

Mistletoe, Viscum album Coloratum -a hemi-parasitic plant

Cut and dried mistletoe

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant with an extensive and ancient history in many cultures. Myth suggests mistletoe was the wood from which the cross of Jesus was made, after which, as a punishment, the former tree was withered and reduced to a parasite. The plant has various hosts and usually grows on higher branches where seeds fall in bird droppings.

Instructions for making tea – Mistletoe can be kept in the fridge, though I was told not to store it in the freezer. A handful of twigs and leaves are then boiled in approximately 2 litres of water and the tea drank warm or chilled. I have discovered that a fuller infusion is made if the ‘leaves’ are left to steep over night before being removed. European Mistletoe can also be used for making tea herbalists claim it has numerous benefits, one of which is lowering blood pressure. Here  is made by way of a cold infusion.

The taste – I am not really into hot herbal or cereal teas and generally prefer these chilled. Mistletoe surprised me as it has a very distinct and pleasant taste with a lemony aroma. The taste is remarkably similar to that of western type tea (Ceylon, PG Tips, Liptons etc)  but quite soft. It lacks  the bitterness or tartness associated with tannin in un-milked, un-sugared tea. Currently I prefer this ‘tea’ to Korean barley, corn or green tea.

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