Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tea & Craft Fair @ BEXCO

Starting today, Thursday November 17th the Busan Tea and Craft Fair has started at BEXCO. I will be attending tomorrow and Saturday to get in on the good deals and make some tea contacts. There will be many booths providing tea samples so it is worth the visit !
The event is from November 17 ~ 20, 2011 from 10 a.m. ~ 6 p.m.
Tickets are 3,000 won
For more info call : 051 740-7705
or check out their website :
From next week I will be posting what I have learned @ the fair with regards to tea in Busan. Do drop by there and taste some of the tea that Busan and Korea have to offer !

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Fine Bowl of the Green in Someyeon

Back in the 1200s green tea was drunken in powdered form, in bowls, wisked to a froth with a bamboo wisk. This occurred in China, Korea and Japan. At the end of the 1200s the mongols invaded, somehow wiping out this tea culture. As the mongols weren't able to successfully invade Japan, it survived there, later becoming the Japanese tea ceremony.
In Japanese and English it is called Matcha, in Korean its Malcha 말차. In Busan today, there are two places that serve green tea that way, the best of which is in Someyeon at a place called DaSoul.
SAs you can see on the map here DaSoul is located next to the McDonalds and the public library. To get there, take the street between The Burger King and the underground McDonalds heading away from the underground shopping mall street.

Heading down that street will lead you to this corner. On the left is the police station and the library. On the right, blood donation and photos. DaSoul is in that building on the 2nd floor. To the right you'll see the sign.
This is the enterance to the Zen garden that is Da Soul.
Inside you'll see there are plenty of seats. This teahouse is always busy.
As you can see here, my friend Will enjoying his tea. I quite often bring my friends here for tea as everyone always has a great time. Japanese Matcha is quite strong in flavor as you are consuming the entire leaf of the tea in your bowl opposed to infused teas. These days many Korean companies are making their own powdered green teas as the Matcha market is greatly expanding.
My main recommendation for this place is their Malcha Shake as it is called,  which is essentially a Matcha Affogato : Powdered green tea whisked to a froth with a pad of sherbert ice cream ! An awesome innovation to the Song Dynasty green tea. If you like you can simply order the Malcha and have it without the icecream the way the Goryeo dynasty Yangban used to.
Open from 12 till 12 they offer a wide variety of the traditional Korean teahouse teas but are known for their Matcha or Malcha as it is called here in Korea.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Osaka Matcha Tea Shop

When in Busan one "must travel to" destination is Osaka. You can take the Panstar ferry from Busan to Osaka. It takes 1 night to get there leaving Busan about 2 or 3 in the afternoon and arriving there at 10am. It is extremely convenient.
We did alot of shopping down Shinsaibashi (one main shopping street there) 2km of shopping ! One place I definitely wanted to go to was Matsuyamachi subway stop where theres an old teashop that is amazing. Expensive but worth it. They sell Japanese tea ceremony equipment. The shop is called Shibahashi. Originally I found out about this shop here which has a convenient map :

 The shop is on a street that runs parallel to the subway street heading east. It is mostly a residential area with not much to see on the way. 2 streets south there is a long shopping street but that's a little ways away. At the subway stop theres a few huge toy stores. Great prices too !
Shibahashi has been selling tea ceremony equipment since the 1950s.

 The sales lady was extremely helpful. I wish I had gotten her name but alas no English (My Japanese classes start in November *hmph*)  Luckily from their website I knew what I wanted, and it was on display there : One of the leather bags that contained all the things needed for a Japanese tea ceremony.
 The two teabowls on the left are originally Korean in design. Teabowls of that design are called Raku Teabowls or in Japanese and Korean: a Raku Chawan. A design that was created by a Korean potter in the 1200s. His name was Raku which is odd considering he was Korean. At that time some Koreans were brought to Japan to work for the local Samurai or for the Shogun. This is the best explanation for his Japanese name.

 The bowls on the right are also Japanese Matcha bowls. The wide rim design for those came from China during the Song Dynasty. At the very bottom is a water vessel where one would scoop out fresh water.

At the bottom, under the glass they have various 'chaire' as they are called. Chaire are containers for Matcha powder. Originally the Japanese teamasters took cosmetic containers and used them for holding their powder. These were decorated with various motifs and became part of the Japanese tea ceremony in use today.

 One of the sales staff packing my teaset and explaining how to use it. I'll do a more detailed explanation and review of the set and its use later.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Japanese Tea House near Changwon

 Last year my mother in law took tea classes where she learned Japanese tea ceremony. Hearing that I was also into tea, her teacher invited us out into the countryside to visit her teahouse. It is a real Japanese teahouse; very old school. Edo period I believe, but I'm still learning. Here's what I gleaned from the ceremony so far. (It was my first Japanese tea ceremony, the only other ones I've encountered were the ones I'd seen on youtube or read about in books).

To get there we drove for about an hour and a half out of Busan last Sunday. We arrived there, just west of Changwon.
 At the foot of the hill I was given a small fan and a packet containing various cloth and paper napkins for me to bring to the ceremony.
Its nice as a guest to bring something and even nicer to be given something to bring to the ceremony.
The fan is used to mark your place. When taking tea the fan rests behind your feet. When bowing it is placed before you. During feudal Japan the samurai would leave his large sword outside the teahouse on a rack, while he would bring his smaller sword into the teahouse and place it on the tatami mat before him when bowing. Using a small fan is reminiscent of that custom.
 Before entering the teahouse, guests wash their hands and lips at the small fountain.
The teacher explained that we wash our lips to cleans away any misspoken words.

 Here's my wife beside the enterance to the teahouse. It leads to a narrow crawl space corridor.
All guests and even the host enter this way. It is a humbling crawl and a way to show that all equally enter the ceremony. It is also symbolic of going back to our birth to that place of innocence and simplicity.
 Before entering we place our fan infront of us. We bow upon entering and again upon exiting the narrow corridor/entering into the tea room.
 Here's a view of the corridor we all crawled down to get into the tearoom. At both ends there's a sliding door and even a light switch for the corridors lights.
 The teahouse consists of an enterance corridor crawl space, a main tearoom and a back room for storage and cleaning of the tea equipment.

Here is the tearoom. Zen scroll and flower water container and water kettle over a charcoal fire.
In the classes they offer here they teah you how to make tea over a charcoal fire. Very old school.

Nowadays many infuse their tea with teabags or infuse the leaves and filter out the leaves, where as originally tea was consumed by putting the ground tea leaves into water and consuming all : tea leaves and water. This was done in China Korea and Japan.
With the Mongol invasions however, this tea culture was virtually wiped out, surviving only in Japan.
The Japanese went further, developing a ceremony for tea as a means of bringing a sense of Zen unity and peace to the very warlike Samurai culture of Japan.

Upon entering the tearoom we bow to the scroll and observe the flower and the warm charcoal fire heating the water.
 Before taking the tea we eat some of the tea savories, carefully wiping the chopsticks on the napkin provided.

The tatami mats are arranged in a square pattern : one square in the middle with another mat on each side of it.
You can see in the picture the serving bowl is on one side of the line in the central square and our napkin and cooking are on the other side. Well arranged.
Once made the tea should be drunken in three sips. Getting it in a regular teahouse in Busan, (Someyeon's Green Tea House) 3 sips seems like very little tea but within the context of the ceremony, it makes alot of sense and is very satisfying.
It also ensures that the tea is very frothy. At home, when I make a small amount of tea just like they did here it turns out wonderfully. I'm still experimenting, trying to make a large amount of powdered green tea extremely frothy... I'll keep you posted.

Here just outside of Changwon, they offer 2 part classes : Japanese tea ceremony and tea history and philosophy all for 25,000 won per class (4 classes 100,000 won) classes are held on Sundays.

My wife and I are planning on going once a month, starting in September if we can find 2 other people to join us. (Carpool about 5 or 10,000 won each for gas). My wife can translate. Both the adjuma and the monk teach the classes. Contact me if you are interested.

Matthew @ 010 5737 6543

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Green Tea in Powdered Form.

If you go far back enough in history, most of the tea was green, ground down into powder form, with small amounts tapped into a bowl and with warm water, wisked into a fine froth . Old school. This was how it was done.
Tea was served in bowls and not cups. Here in Busan it is possible to take your tea this way. Later this week I'll review the main teahouse for a bowl of powdered green located in Someyeon.
In most teastores here, powdered tea goes for about 20,000 won for a small tin. One tin will last you for a few months as you take it in small amounts. Many shops here sell the tiny scoops for the Malcha (말차) in Korean. In Japanese it is called Matcha. Many shops here also sell the bamboo wisks. I'll report on the shopping business later next month... Suffice here's the history :

Early in China's Song dynasty (960-1279) tea was taken almost like a soup with onions, pickle juice, ginger and orange peel. (Nowadays most of us foreigners have trouble with the pickles that come with our pizza !)
Later during the Song dynasty, farms began producing larger crops and farmers were able to grow a wider diversity of crops. Thus, tea became more widely grown making it less of a luxury and suddenly a drink even the poorest could afford. Teahouses flourished with many serving soups as well as tea savories.
As they are in China today these teahouses became centers for business meetings. Although during the Song dynasty they more closely resembeled the British coffeehouses of the 1800s : providing not only the latest news (no Internet then), but also entertainment. (Many British coffeehouses employed entertainers to read the news and provide humor as well as song).
It was during this time the green tea leaves were ground down into a powder form and whipped in hot water with a bamboo wisk. Tea was also taken in shallow saucers (called chen) as well as bowls while the tea in soup form understandably disappeared. Later, with the Mongolian invasions this tea culture changed greatly in China becoming what we now see mostly thoughout the anglosphere : tea infused in water with the leaves discarded.
Which brings one important point : with green tea in powder form : nothing is wasted and one gets the maximum health benefits of green tea when you take it in powdered form.

During the height and the waning of the Song dynasty in China, in Korea, green tea was also drunken in powdered form during the Goryeo period (981-1392). This method of taking green tea came from China which is one reason a small group of Koreans nowadays feel free to promote the Japanese Zen tea ceremony here in Korea, for even Zen Buddhism came from China originally.

It was during China's Song dynasty that a Japanese monk named Eisai travelled to China upon relations improving between these two countries. (Earlier Japanese pirates would raid Chinese ships while at the same time Japanese traders were trying to trade with China for, among other things, Chinese silks for their kimonos). China got fed up with it all and closed itself off entirely from Japan. This, is only part of that story, but I wish not to digress.
In 1191, Eisai came back to Japan with tea seeds and the teachings of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. He also brought with him the method of taking the tea in powdered form. Zen Buddhism stressed the value of developing a skill with the aim of the highest form of technique through self discipline it also taught a sense of defiance in the face of death that matched well with the Samurai code. Indeed, later in the 1300s many Samurai would regularily conduct tea ceremonies as well as collect tea implements for their beauty.

The Japanese tea ceremony first, developed out of the practical preparation of tea shortly after 1191. In the 1300s things became more artistic and focussed on the beauty or art around the ceremony.
Later the ceremony became more finely tuned when the ideals of Buddhism and Taoism came into influence.
These new ideals were greatly promoted by the monk Murata Shuko (1521-1591). He wrote of the value of unadorned objects, the cracked and imperfect as being a reflection of the beauty found in nature. It is this appreciation we find in the Japanese tea ceremony as practiced today. It was Shuko who asked by the shogun Yoshimasa to create a tea ceremony for him. Making Shuko the first tea master and official founder of the Japanese tea ceremony.

From the 1500s to the 1800s Japanese tea ceremony flourished. However, in the early 1900s Japan began a period of rapid modernization. Railroads were built across the country, shogunates became the present day prefectures as the Japanese military was modernized. It was during this time that scholar and samurai decendant Kakuzo Okakura came to New York and wrote his "The Book of Tea". Fluent in both Chinese and English, Okakura became disturbed by not the modernization of Japan but the utter disregard his fellow Japanese were showing as they carelessly discarded their own cultural heritage in adopting western ways. Okakura was greatly influential in the American art world, persuading many gallery owners and universities to begin collecting ancient Japanese art works. He served many as a consultant and art critic thus preserving many Japanese art works from destruction at the hands of his fellow countrymen. It is his work, "The Book of Tea" that is widely read today as a celebration of the ideals of tea ceremony and Zen philosophy. His work was written in English for foreign eyes to see the inherent values in ancient Asian ways and to appreciate nature, art and tea. It is available here in Korea from :) It is due to the works of men and women like Okakura that the art of tea is preserved todays modern times.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Portable Tea Set

 With the end of the rainy season I decided to buy a portable teaset so my wife and I could enjoy tea in the parks that can be found in and around Busan. You can see it in the picture as I demonstrate its level of 'portability'.
This kind of teaset was common to medieval Japan and China and it holds everything except the hot water. When we go for a tea picnic we bring the water in a thermos.
For a good pot of tea the water should be 70-80C and never 90 so a thermos is excellent for this.
The box itself is called a 차탁Chatak or teaboard. (At the bottom of this article I'll have all the shopping information for you).
As you can see here once you remove the lid you can see that it holds the teapot, teabowl and 4 cups on the first level of the teaset. The lid and the frame can both be removed to be used as a small serving table. Great for picnics when you're sitting on a rock in a park and need a flatter space.
As you can see here the bottom level is where you can put your tea. I use small tupperware I got at the 'dollar store' 1000 won mart to hold the tea. It is large enough for a small box of tea. 지혜선/JiHyeSun Teashop sells several teas in small boxes that will fit. As you can see, the teabowl, teapot and cups come wrapped in cloth dust wrappers. I bought these cloth wrappers for 3000-4000 won each at 고물들의 미팅/GoMulDulUi Meeting but you can also get them at a small shop called
이은수도예공방 (Lee Eun Soo DoYeaKongBang). Mentioned later in this article.
As you can see here the lid for the bottom level has a several slits cut into it. This is what makes a chatak: it has a bottom level beneath the grating to catch the water that might be spilled when pouring. Teaboards can come looking like tables and some are just like flat boards. Most have a bottom tray to catch the spill. There are others that are like flat boards with edges to keep the tea on the board. On these ones the tea runs downhill to one end of the board where it disappears down a tube and into a refuse bowl. These ones tend to be rather ornate and expensive.  GoMulDulUi Meeting specializes in teaboards although you can find some at other stores and teahouses as well.
Some Zen or Daoist schools of tea advise that when pouring the tea it should be spilled. There's one teahouse & Teashop in Nampo where the owner loves pouring her tea all over. It is actually quite fun watching her so excitedly playing with her tea. Personally I find that a watery mess and aim to pour all in the cup although it is fun spilling tea for the guests. After all, what is a teaboard for, right? 

GoMulDulUi Meeting (pictured here) specializes in Teaboards. Just ask the staff to see their many  차탁ChaTak. They have many on the first floor and alot more on the 2nd floor. They are THE place for portable teasets.
Directions to there shop can be found on my previous post tea tour part one (repost).

이은수 (Lee Eun Soo)'s tea and pottery shop can is near to GolMulDulUi's Meeting. Lee Eun Soo's shop is a great place to find all kinds of floral teas as well as the traditional Pu'er. I reviewed this shop in my  tea tour part 2 real live horses posting. Later I'll do a report on the Chinese tea thermos which in my opinion is the best way to have Pu'er tea.  Till next time, stay steeped.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tea Tour Part 2: Real Live Horses Invade Nampodong!

This weekend cultural groups from Japan, China and Korea are coming to Busan part of the Joseon Tongsinsa Busan Festival. It starts this Thursday May 5th and goes until Sunday May 8th. It is a festival commemorating the time during the Joeseon Dynasty when Japan, China and Korea were at peace with eachother and were trading heavily. During that time trade delegations from Seoul would travel down to Busan where they would embark by ship to Japan.
 What they don't tell you is that there will be a parade reenacting that time when an embassador would embark with his delegation to Japan to trade. The parade will also include real live horses and will take place Saturday at 2:00. At 2 there will be a few speeches and everyone in the parade will assemble in the park beneath Nampo tower. At 3:00 the parade will start, going down the hill and around a corner to proceed down the street past the Zen Buddhist temple heading towards the statuary, police station and roundabout.
It will be very crowded, most especially when the parade ends which will a good time to drop by one of the many teahouses along the parade route. (at the bottom of this post I've provided a tea map).

Here's the statue where the parade will pass. Up the street there's a great place for Korean teasets (usually 30,000-40,000 won). Just go up this street passing between the Police station on your right and good Calvin Klein on your right.
 Another way to go is one street in from that main street. The one with all the food stands. You'll pass behind the 2F Chinese restaurant and behind the Zen Buddhist temple. Just after the temple on your left will be a women's underwear shop. Turn left at that shop.
 From the main street you'll come to Cafe Pascucci and Shakers bar. Across from those two is a narrow alley with a few adjumas and sewing machines (4 sewing machines...there used to be more years before). Go down sewing machine alley to the underwear shop. Pass the underwear still going straight.
 Heres the underwear shop on the left. Just walk under the umbrella keeping the undies on your left, empty grey building pictured here on your right. You'll suddenly pass several 2nd hand clothing shops. Right next to the 2nd hand clothes you'll find...
TAMINA!! The place where everything is always on sale. Tis the place for Korean teasets. One set comes with teapot, tea cooling bowl and several cups. Hands down the cheapest place in Busan for a proper Korean style teaset.
If hardware is not your thing there's a place that sells great floral teas in small packets: 5000 won per pack. It's also where I got a great Pu'er tea/Boey cha. To get there start at the statue. With ABC mart to your back and the police station to your right go along with the traffic down the curvy street. Eventually you'll get to a
gate with two drug stores on either side. The gate says 만물의 거리or everything's street. Go through the gate up the street to near the end.
Going up that street you'll pass electric/lighting shops then it'll change to alot of great touristy stuff; t-shirts scrolls etc. near the end of the street on your right you'll finally find...

 The trickly named 이은수도예공방 or Lee Eun Soo pottery making place. They don't make pottery there but sell tea hardware and steepables. I bought a western style teaset there : teapot with mesh insert and teacups for 10,000 won! There are still a few deals like that there!! She also sells flower and herbal teas as well as the classic Chinese Pu'er tea. Just ask to see her Boey Cha if you like. Her flower teas sell for 5,000 won each.
Also in the area are two teahouses. One serves an excellent Pu'er tea and another has the best green leaf tea to be had in Busan.
The best place for Pu'er tea in Busan is right across from the Nampo hill escalator. At the foot of the escalator you'll see what is pictured here: Cafe Bene and a Nike shop. To the left of the Nike shop you'll see on the 2nd floor a sign for a teashop/teahouse.
The sign is tea in Chinese with DaHengJung in Korean. It is a large teashop with 2 enterances on either street. They sell mostly Pu'er tea/Boey Cha. It is THE place for a fine cup of Pu'er and the store owner is quite knowledgeable. For ordering and what to do once you sit down there, just order 보이차 and see my earlier post on Boey cha here.
If green tea is your thing, well, then just head up the street. Go upstream (towards the car traffic) from the statue until you get to the Krispy Kreme donut shop.
Here you can see the donut shop above, on the extreme right hand corner of this photo is Seoul Katdoogi. Across the street from that you can see a rectangular green sign. It says "Green Tea House" in English letters on it. Just go on up the stairs to the left of the clothing shop.

The teahouse is called 소화방 or white flower room according to the Chinese characters on the sign. It's on the 3rd floor.

As you can see from the pics there are plenty of seats. With a menu in available in Japanese, this place is quite popular with the Japanese tourists.
 There are 3-4 booths with 4 seats in each. One booth has 8 seats so there is plenty of room to bring your pals.
 They have a variety of teas here but are known for their green teas. This is one of the two places in Busan where you can get Japanese style powdered green tea in a bowl 말차 or Mal cha. Here they don't give you very much but it comes with Mochi the ultimate tea savory. More on that later...
I do recommend either of their two leaf green teas: Ujeon or Saejak tea. Earlier I blogged about ujeon green tea. Saejak green tea is picked one month later than Ujeon green tea and is also called "Sparrows tongue tea" because the leaves are so tiny. When you order either Ujeon Cha or Saejak cha they will bring you a teaboard as pictured below:
Simply pour the hot water into the teabowl. This is to measure out the right amount as the teapot holds more than the teabowl. The water should not be steaming. If its steaming its too hot and you'll get less flavor out of your leaves. Let the water cool a bit in the bowl then pour it into the pot. The little stand is for the teapot lid. After about 30 seconds pour the tea into the bowl. For Saejak tea anything over 30seconds of steeping will give you a bitter taste to your tea. On really hot summer days I recommend Saejak tea as it is quite refreshing almost like a fine peppermint tea would be.
I trust this is enough tea info for you to start your journey. I most highly recommend 소화방 or white flower room, it is quite relaxing and a great way to decompress from the crowds. Those subways are going to be absolutely packed after the parade and what better way to relax and wait for it all do die down than with a fine cup of tea? Another must see in Nampodong is the Zen Buddhist temple. Feel free to walk around to the back side of the temple. Theres a great ledge from where you can look down upon all the shoppers there. Either way, Nampodong this May 7th weekend is the place to be! For more help with directions, do see the map @ the bottom of this post. Best wishes, and stay steeped! -- MWT.

큰 지도에서 Tea Treasure Map Of Busan 보기

Sunday, April 17, 2011

PNU's 차밭골Teahouse

 PNU's ChaBatGol teahouse is always busy as it is popular with PNU students and staff. The name means tea tree-field village and it is really easy to find. 
To get there just go right up infront of PNUs main gate. On the right there is a huge shopping center. To the left is a smaller street with foodstands. Going only about 1 building down the small street (university on your right with foodstands infront of the wall) on your left you'll see the building pictured here.

The 2nd floor is a pool hall. Going up the stairs you'll probably have to pass alot of smoke. Quick inhale, hold your breath and on up to the 3rd floor.  
Inside you'll find alot of tables and chairs as well as a korean style ondol seats. Its hours are a bit unusual, most days it is open from 10:30am to 10:30 except for Wednesday and Sunday when its open from 12:30 to 10:30.
ChaBatGol has a wide range of teas including many common to most teahouses: OMeJaCha (a dense fruity tea) and the plum-like DaeChooCha among them.
This time I ordered another tea common to most Korean teahouses : 쑥차/SookCha. Sook is a kind of herb that is most commonly used when making the pounded sticky rice cakes called Deok. If you've ever had Deok you'll know that Deok as it is very sticky and a gummy. With a sip of tea, Deok becomes alot more marshmellow like mushy insteady of gummy. And that's your tea tip for today: when given Deok, ask for tea, tea makes the gummy go away.  If you're looking for a strong tasting tea, SookCha is your thing. It has a strong spinachy taste. 
My wife had their 황차/HwangCha. It comes to you in a similar collection of teapots and filters similar to the 보이차/Boey Cha or Pu'er Tea mentioned before. Like Boey Cha, just add water to the ceramic pot, wait then filter it into the glass teapot or spouted bowl to cool. HwangCha is alot like Pu'er tea: slightly woody in taste but generally quite smooth. When strong (steeped for 1 minute or more), tends to the acidic/tannin. Personally I like it when its steeped for 30seconds only. 
 Overall, ChaBatGol is a great place to kickback and unwind. My wife and I used to go there often after a long hike behind PNU. We recommend bringing alot of books. It is especially wonderful when it rains as the interior is made to look like an old Korean village house: you can listen to the pitter patter of the rain and imagine Korea's past when things moved alot slower. Best wishes, and stay steeped. MWT.