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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Update: On the 'Art' of Brewing British Tea

Posted in Uncategorized, video clips by 노강호 on June 26, 2011

A few weeks ago I posted an article on the fantastic coffee available in a small shop near E-Marte, in Song-so. The article was Seduced by a Gutamalian Beauty. Though I’m no expert in the field of either beverage, I mentioned how the art of making a perfect cup of tea, seemed somewhat random compared to coffee which, if you follow the correct procedures, produces a decent cup on demand. I refrain from describing such coffee as perfect as I don’t really know what I’m looking for; currently I’m a white belt level at ‘coffee cupping.’ However, the University of Northumbria have recently published their research on pursuing that perfect ‘cuppa’ and pinning down the process which produces it.

There have always been brewing methods but there was always disagreement about the exact sequence of the various stages. Thanks to the students at Northumbria, we now have the ultimate method which I will trial when I’m next in the UK. I’m a snob and making British tea demands British ingredients and British milk.

I do have one gripe, however! Tea bags! British tea made with a tea bag! Where is the method for making traditional British tea with loose leaf tea?

Daily Telegraph. Sunday 26 June 2011. How to make the perfect cup of tea- be patient

And if you are interested in the art of tea, you can read George Orwell’s, A Nice Cup of Tea, published in the Evening Standard, January 12th 1946.

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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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Seduced by a Guatamalan Beauty

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Food and Drink, podcasts by 노강호 on May 10, 2011

Podcast 81

Finding a decent coffee in Korea is not difficult, but finding one where coffee’s sophistication isn’t assaulted by tasteless music, is. Most of the large coffee franchises and restaurants pump out shite music which has a broad appeal but I don’t particularly want to drink a coffee or eat lunch to the same music I’ve also been forced to listen to in the gym or by those teenagers zig-zagging down the road on their noisy hairdryer-powered mopeds.  I suppose it could be worse; it could be muzak!

Coffee and Bun - calm, intimate and cosy... plus a buttery bun

I used to love a good cup of English tea, preferably Earl Grey though Lady Grey is also a favourite. Tea is one of the most refreshing beverages but I’ve learnt that there is something amiss with tea in Korea as there is something amiss with soju in the UK or Pimm’s No. 1 consumed indoors, in winter. My local Home Plus was selling boxes of Twinning’s Earl Grey last year at the amazing price of 2500 Won (£1.25) for 50 bags. However, whether it was the water or the milk, I could never brew a cup that was decent, let alone one the experience of which was sublime. And now I’ve become a coffee head!

 If you follow the correct procedure you can guarantee a decent coffee with every brew but  the perfect cup of tea is elusive and the method not as quick to reveal the full potential as is coffee. No matter how many cups of coffee I make, or which procedure I follow, every cup is simply okay and certainly coffee’s reliability to produce a good brew is its failing because in the randomness and unpredictability of tea, lies its greatest strength. And no matter how many different types of coffee I sample, they all seem to taste the same which I suppose is a reflection of my ignorance. Teas however, are much more distinct and their flavours and subtleties don’t require learning to be appreciated – and least not if your British.

Almost one hundred and fifty pounds of pot

The perfect ‘cuppa’, worthy of a lengthy, ‘shi-won-hada’ (시원하다) which in this sense approximates, ‘oh, heavenly,’ is dependent upon something beyond the brewing method and even the closest adherence to brewing principles fails to guarantee its attainment. With tea, you accept that while most cups will be good, perfection is elusive. Yesterday, I decided to have an Earl Grey in Mr Big; it was a disappointment, the tea was served in a glass mug and I had to ask for milk. Earl Grey with milk never looks appealing in a glass cup as it is so pale and insipid and though it had a perfumed bouquet, as you would expect, and seemed to contain fresh tea leaves, though  they could just as easily have come from a tea bag,  there was something missing.  So, until I’m back on British shores I guess I’ll have to be content with coffee.

My favourite coffee shop is the ‘Coffee and Bun’ near Migwang and almost directly next to the new football stadium sized coffee shop, (Korea’s most popular), ‘Coffee Bene.’  ‘Coffee and Bun’ is run by a young man who is totally obsessed with coffee and who has almost taken me under his wing as an acolyte. I can no longer venture here without being shown the latest coffee brewing paraphernalia or being asked to compare some beans. I don’t particularly mind, the café has an intimate atmosphere and usually the music is gentle and in the background and certainly has more sophistication than the pop-pap which is universally pumped out. If you thought coffee tasting was simple, let me assure you it is every bit as complex as wine tasting and among connoisseurs is known as ‘coffee cupping.’

coffee paraphernalia

Unlike tea tasting, which is a fairly cheap hobby, coffee cupping can be expensive. Over several sessions Chong-min has paraded his entire range of coffee brewing utensils. Two pots in which boiled water is allowed to cool before pouring, one stainless steel, the other copper, cost 140.000 Won  (£70) and 180.000 Won (£90), respectively. As the water needs to be poured at 195-205 degrees Celsius, a suitable thermometer is needed. Next, he has a collection of 5 coffee drippers in differing designs one of which is made with a fabric, while another, at 50.000 Won (£25) is copper. You would think coffee drippers a fairly standard item but in several of the books from the growing coffee library in a corner of his café, I can research their various designs and their pros and cons. Even the cheapest dripper (5000 Won) is cataloged in his books.    Another glass utensil combines a coffee pot and dripper and the paper filters, almost the size of A4 paper which Chong-min folds with the dexterity of an origami  master, are bought from the USA and cost around 200 Won each.  In my ignorance, I’ve always used a food processor or blender to grind my coffee and now I learn this is vastly inferior to the conical burr grinder which guarantees consistency of grain. ‘Blade grinders’ simply smash the beans about producing an inconsistent ground of both powder and more sandy grains.

and more...

When the water reaches the magical temperature of around 92 degrees Fahrenheit, I am required to drip the water over the grounds in a spiraling motion after which we wait for several minutes. Naturally, we have scrutinised the beans, feeling them, smelling their aroma, assessing their oiliness, observing their colour and the grounds we have sniffed and sifted between fingers. We eagerly wait to sample the brew but as usual, the taste is not much different to the coffee I produce in my cheap coffee press using fairly regular beans smashed up in a blender.

and the buns are delicious

I was beginning to perceive a good cup of coffee, more like an okay cup of coffee and in much the same light as I perceive a glass of Coca Cola, ie, as simply a fizzy drink with no greater potential to satisfy than any other fizzy drink, but the mediocrity of which is inflated beyond the realms of reason. I was beginning to think I’d been hoodwinked into searching for something that did not exist and learning a language, a jargon, that made something out of nothing. That was, until Chong-min presented me a cup of Guatemala (COE – cup of excellence). It wasn’t even brewed by means of his epicurean paraphernalia all of which I was beginning to suspect were the implements of an international coffee conspiracy. Even if I had not been aware of the superiority of this particular coffee, it would have made an impression. It’s announcement lay somewhere between an oral orgasm and a sledge hammer.  I have no idea what was fantastic about it any more than I can really tell you what constitutes that elusive cup of sublime tea. To have deconstructed its superiority with descriptors like, ‘rancid/rotten’ and ‘rubber-like’ would have destroyed the moment. Like tea, once perfection is presented, it’s potential lasts only a few minutes. The ‘moment’ becomes even more appreciated when Chong-min tells me the beans cost  40.000 Won (£20) for 100 grammes. That’s a staggering 8 times the price of the most expensive supermarket coffee where 100 grammes costs around 5000 Won (£2.50). To the ignorant at least, and in the eyes of coffee cupping connoisseurs, I’m ignorant, no descriptor bolsters the taste of coffee more than ‘cost’ and I’m glad I was hit by the oral orgasm before I learned its price because price often has the capacity to turn shit into gold. Monk fish, in Korea for example,  is prolific and cheap but in Britain, where at one time it was a poor man’s substitute for scampi, a massive hitch in price has reinvented it as an exotic, expensive delicacy patronized by the numerous celebrity chefs who entertain the nation while they sit down to TV dinners and food largely the product of factory systems. Monk fish is now the gentry of  the sea, infinitively superior to that former bulwark,  the salmon and vastly more sophisticated than the old scampi it used to mimic.  Nothing inflates taste more, or subjects it to more scrutiny, or provides for it a jargon which only erudition can elicit, than cost.

I am pleased I appreciated the Guatemala (COE) before being made aware of its price and had considered giving up the pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee, which in effect really entails the acceptance of my ignorance. Now I can dispense with trying to learn perfection and in this case treat myself to the experience when I feel the need. Sadly, at 40.000 for a 100 grammes, my average weekly consumption, I’ll drastically have to reduce the number of cups I drink.

Coffee and Bun - a minutes walk from Song-So E-Mart.

Find Coffee and Bun on Wikimapia

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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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