Just like us Brits, Korean people love a good cup of tea, or cha.
Traditional Korean tea history dates back thousands of years, when Chinese plants brought white, oolong, green, pu-erh and black tea to the country. During the Joseon Dynasty, tea fell out of favour a bit, but thankfully the kettle was switched on again in the 1960s-1980s.
There are four types of tea enjoyed mainly these days: green tea, medicinal herb tea, fruit teas, and grain teas. Green tea, most commonly known as nokcha 녹차 in Korea, is well known for its calming and antioxidant properties and can be drunk any time of day, but great for unwinding post-work stress. Medicinal herb teas will pick you up when you’re full of cold or just feeling under the weather. Try saenggangcha 생강차 (ginger tea), insamcha 인삼차 (ginseng tea), and ssanghwacha 쌍화차 (medicinal tea).
Fruit teas are great for days when you want a sweet taste and no caffine. Two popular fruit teas are the gloriously sweet daechucha 대추차 (jujube tea) and the citrony yujucha 유자차 (Chinese quince tea). Last but not least, there’s grain tea yulmucha 율무차 (adlay tea) and boricha 보리차 (barley tea)
Of course, no cup of tea would be complete without a snack, but save the cheeky Jaffas for another day. Hangwa 한과, traditional sweets, are the best combo. Yugwa 유과, a light and chewy little oblong made by deep-frying sweet rice flour and grain syrup, is the most common (and incredibly moreish) of the bunch.
Next time you’re in the local Chinese, Japanese or other Asian food market, take a good look at the tea selection for some of these Korean staples. Many of them come in loose tea or teabag form, but the fruit teas often look like huge jars of jam. Just dollop a few spoonfuls in hot water and you’re ready to go.