Today marks a long awaited day for me in Korea – the day of first drinking quality Korean green tea.
When I arrived at my school, the staffs kindly provided me with a box of cheap brown rice green tea in bags, but the flavour of that was closer to the taste of paper than of tea leaves.
Yesterday I bought a tea kettle, so I can actually enjoy boiling water once again. My apartment did have one of the plastic water kettles, but the temperature of that is not nearly hot enough for the way I prefer to make my tea (though I do prefer it cold tea extraction).
Today I walked around extensively in many areas of Seoul. Some coworkers said that Insa-dong was a good place to buy tea. There were a few shops, and I did find some excellent tea there. However, at 50,000 Korean won for a 100g bag of tea leaves, I thought the prices might be inflated due to the high number of tourists that frequent that particular area.
I went to Itaewon (partially to get some curry paste in one of the foreign markets), but the only green tea they had there was an odd Japanese green tea. Odd because it is green tea made to look like instant coffee grounds. In Japan, a small jar costs 100 yen. In Korea, that same jar cost 8,000 won (10x more). I tried that tea when I was in Japan, and like most instant coffee, it was not nearly as good as other products.
Later on I went to Lotte Mart, a Korean hypermarket. They had a lot of bagged teas. They had some teas meant to be given as gifts. There were some samples to smell, but I assume they were not changed often. Some were impossible to open, and the ones that were openable did not smell like particularly good quality tea. None of them smelled as good as the 50,000won 100g bag of tea. When I have the money, I will get one of those bags. That one is a contender for the best green tea I’ve ever had, assuming it tastes as good as it smells. I ended up buying the best organic green tea Lotte Mart had – 23,000 won for a 30g bag (yes, more expensive by quantity, but the cost is less for this month, as money is tight).
I thought to avoid the money issue entirely, perhaps I should just become a tea farmer. THat way I could enjoy all the green tea I could possibly want. Tea also grows in conditions similar to the panda’s native habitat, so no problem with environmental adaption either.