Elwood 5566

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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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

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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