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Traditional Korean tea was what is known today as nok cha or “green tea”. Now the word “tea” in Korea can mean any assortment of hot or cold beverages infused with different fruits and herbs. For example, Yulmu Cha is a popular beverage sold in vending machines throughout South Korea, as is Omija-Cha (Magnolia Berry Tea).
This type of drinking tea is known for its freshness and unlike traditional tea from countries such as India or China the tea leaves used aren’t aged, oxidised or fermented, only dried which allows the leaves to retain their bright green colour.
Nok cha is traditionally used in Korean tea culture ceremonies and has been since the Joseon Dynasty between 1392 and 1910. Called darye or “etiquette for tea”, the tea ceremony is still very important and is used today to relax and unwind from the hectic pace of life in modern Korea.
Although traditional Korean green tea is consumed most frequently in the country, other tea beverages are made using different ingredients. Insam cha is made with ginseng, saenggang cha is made with ginger and ma cha is made with hemp.
Korea herb tea, or tisanes are used for their medicinal qualities and come in many varieties. As well as the aforementioned Korean Ginseng and ginger teas which are used as a caffeine replacement stimulant and anti-nausea remedy respectively, other herbal teas include oksusu cha, made from roasted corn and ssanghwa cha, made from cinnamon bark.
The South Korean tea production is for the most part based in the rolling hills of Boseong. Tea was first planted in the region during Japanese occupation and now accounts for over 40% of Korea’s green tea production.