Even if you fancy yourself a bit of a tea connoisseur; sampling delights from popular tea-producing countries like India, China, Morocco and Japan—we’re willing to bet you probably haven’t dabbled in Korean teas just yet.
Tea holds an important place in cultures the world over. In China, it’s served with pretty much every meal and brewed constantly, while in India it’s a fundamental part of a morning routine. In the UK it’s served at the first whiff of a crisis, and in Australia, it’s become an integral part of the wellness scene. In Korea, their approach to tea is informal and natural; allowing more creativity for flavours and relaxation. And the best part? They’re brimming with health benefits. If the popularity of K-Beauty is anything to go by, you might want to listen up!
Despite being made from the same leaf variety most commonly used in China and Japan (from the leaves of the camellia sinensus var. sinensus variety, for all you technical tea lovers), Korean tea isn’t as widely exported and is hence much more of a mystery than its counterparts.
Korean has four major tea growing areas—Mount Jiri, Boseong, Jeonnam and Jeju Island. Mount Jiri is the birthplace of Korean tea cultivation, and here tea bushes grow wild.
Now, because Korean’s like to do things differently—some of their popular tea varieties include infusing leaves from grains, edible mushrooms or seaweed. While tea is not as popular as coffee in South Korea, grain teas are served in many restaurants instead of water, while herbal and fruit teas are commonly served both hot and cold. Sounds like our cup of tea! (Sorry)
Common Korean tea types
Green tea (“nokcha”) is the most popular type of tea in Korea. The effects of green tea are well-documented; with green tea’s somewhat bitter taste coming from an abundance of catechins, which are believed to help fight against cancer and bacteria, reduce body fat, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Plus, starting your day with a nokcha is thought to really boost your metabolism for the day ahead. Pass us the teapot!
Matcha (pronounced ‘malcha’ in Korea) is another popular tea pick; a popular alternative to coffee. As we know, one cup of matcha contains around a quarter of the amount of caffeine in a regular cup of coffee—so it will give you the energy you need without that coffee buzz! On top of this, it claims to boost your metabolism and help with weight loss, supports your immune function and has super high levels of antioxidants—what more could you want?!
Hwangcha (“yellow tea”) is a Korean tea type made of partially oxidised leaves. It is a cross between unoxidised nokcha and fully oxidised hongcha (“black tea”). The flavour is more mellow than the bitter taste associated with green tea; but luckily, thanks to the partial oxidisation process—it maintains the immense health benefits of green tea.
The healthiest picks
If you want to deep dive into the world of Korean teas, check out these types—believed to treat a host of different ailments:
Memil-cha (Buckwheat tea)
This caffeine-free tea is believed to improve circulation, prevent and treat varicose veins, all whilst boosting your metabolism—making it the perfect choice for your first-morning brew.
Danggwi-cha (Angelica root tea)
Believed to help with hormone imbalances, this tea is given to women post-partum in order to aid their recovery and re-balance out of whack hormones.
Saenggang-cha (Ginger root tea)
Ultimately the go-to winter remedy of Koreans, this ginger root tea is stored with honey and is believed to treat the winter blues, as well as stomach bugs, low-body temperature and diarrhoea. What an all-rounder!
Iseul-cha (Hydrangea tea)
This traditional Korean tea is made from mountain hydrangeas, and is believed to treat urinary tract infections and help if you suffer from hay fever.