Friday, August 31, 2012

Beomosa Monks! @ The 7th Busan International Tea Cultural Festival Day 1

 As you can see the main square of the Busan Cultural Center is filled with booths staffed by various artisans showing their wares: potters furniture makers and tea vendors.

 Powdered green tea is quite popular now with several booths serving free tea.
 I ran into a few monk friends there. This is Bapsan Senim from Beomosa. My wife and I had tea with him on a few occasions. He was showing me the antique tea vessels they have on display there : from as far back as 2000 BC ! From the collections shown you can get a real sense of the development of tea pots, tea jars and tea bowls and tea cups.

Theres a regular Japanese tea ceremony demonstration that takes place in one of the lower galleries. I shall conduct an interview with them tomorrow !

 Scrolls are also on display. The Cultural Center has two big galleries and both are taken up by the Tea Festival : There's lots to see !
Some with poems, some Zen scrolls as well...

 Incense containers....

 Tomorrow @ 2:00 there will be various tea servings. (I'm not sure if they will be ceremonies or not...) I believe it is by invitation...Regardless I'm looking forward to watching the proceedings.

 The Beomosa Monks have several tables booked for tomorrow !

 There's a display showing the Traditional Korean Wedding Ceremony. There was nobody there to interview at the time. I'll try to catch them tomorrow...
So there you have it : Lots to see and well worth full afternoon at the Busan Cultural Center. Not sure how to get there? Just tell a taxi driver : Busan Moon Hwa Hwey Gwan Ka Jew Say Oh. Its near the UN Cemetery on most tourist maps.

Monday, August 27, 2012

7th Busan International Tea Cultural Festival

This coming Friday I'm pleased to be covering the 7th Busan International Tea Cultural Festival.
It will be held at the Busan Cultural Center (Busan Moonhwa Waygwan) This August 31st to September 2nd. A fine way for celebrating and taking the edge off after the typhoon that is hitting here rather quite soon.

Among many other things there will be booths covering Tea Incense, Tea Savories, Tea Art, Japanese Matcha Tea Ceremony, Flower Arrangements for Tea Services, Buddhist Tea Offering Ceremony...

Special events taking place throughout the festival to include tea prayer, tea meditation, tea music (of various sorts), Korean dancing.
Many of these special events will take place September 1st and 2nd. Hope to see some of you there !

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Two Tea iPhone Apps as cool as a Geisha in glasses.

For those of you into tea and with a smartphone here are a few tea apps I've found in my forays into the world of tech.



My most recent discovery was found via App Annie called iSado. Sado, also known as chado is way of tea which refers to the Japanese tea ceremony. It is a useful tool for learning how to make tea the Japanese way as this particular version teaches the bare basic essentials to the Enshu or Samurai tea ceremony. 
It offers a link to a youtube video where you can watch how to make the tea using a bamboo wisk. You can also make the tea virtually much like that of a computer game. At the end of making the tea you are assessed and given a score with advice on how to improve your tea making skills. If making matcha (powdered) green tea isn't your thing and your more into just drinking it, then do visit DaSoul in Someyeon where they serve it the best in Busan.


iTunes - 1.99 USD - by アトリエ木菟



 One of the earliest apps I'd discovered was Yoritsuki. I found it by searching for apps under "Zen" from which I found many Buddhist apps. From there I practically stumbled upon Yoritsuki a Japanese made app in English for the iPhone and also now for the iPad. Essentially it is a Japanese inn commonly known as a Ryokan. You can select the seasons, the weather and tonnes of interior design features to decorate the room. I find it most relaxing and great for when I find myself in an office or a cubicle and lacking the atmosphere that so enhances ones tea experience.


So there you have it : 2 apps for your phone that are as cool as a Geisha in glasses.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Someyeon's Busiest Teahouse

Located in the heart of Busan, in the bustling downtown area of Someyeon, 내고형전통찻집 Nae Ko Hyung Jun Tong Chat Chip: My Hometown Traditional Teahouse is one of the busiest teahouses in Busan. There is a constant, steady flow of patrons all day and on into the night there. Here's a brief tour of what you'll find:

Plenty of seating options: booths, chairs, awesome swivel chairs and a tatami flooring area (you can see the shoes off step in the picture).
All of the teas served here very fresh with strong flavors. It is easy to see why this is the busiest teahouse in Busan second only to Hanabang behind Lotte Dept.Store. NaeKoHyung is famous for their Omejacha (5 flavors tea) pictured here ask for it cold in summer. If you don't specify it may come hot or cold depending on the server ! ;-) The servers wear hanbok @ this place ! It is very traditional (It is near cluttered with antiques all over the place) and popular with the Buddhist monks of the Busan area.

This teahouse is located near Yonggwang Bookstore. (The bookstore across the busy street infront of Lotte Dept.Store in Someyeon). Next to Yonggwang is a bank across the small oneway street next to the bank is a small bakery. On the 2nd floor above the bakery you'll see a green sign that says 내고형전통찻집 and that's where you'll find one of, if not the best, teahouse in Busan.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Osulloc Magnolia Blossom Tea

My evening tea has been greatly enhanced by a Korean tisane from Osulloc. I'm not sure if the brand is Osulloc or perhaps owned by one of those Korean Irish we can find in Seoul's St.Patricks Day Parade: one of the O'Sulloc's.

Joking aside this is one excellent tea company (and no I'm not taking any won for saying so).
The company is based on Jeju island where they produce a wide variety of teas.

It is one of the main brands in Korea with a huge tea shop in Seoul's Insadong neighborhood. As Seoul is nosebleed expensive compared to Busan, their tea sets there are quite expensive but of good serviceable quality. Taking tea in Insadong usually costs 10USD/10,000won versus the standard Busan teahouse where tea costs between 4USD/4,000won and 6USD/6,000won. But that's Seoul for ya!
For those in Busan, their teas are available at Shinsaegae Department Store.
Their website can be found here though it is mostly in Korean.
Their Magnolia Blosson tea is one of their best tisanes: flavorful yet easy on the stomach.

For best results: water under boiling 90degrees or less. I only use 3-4 leaves at a time steeping for 3-4 minutes. The package suggests 300ml for 2 minutes, though I prefer to use a gaiwan and use my tea sparingly. Either way I highly recommend this tea. It provides a wonderful alternative to Chamomille in the evenings.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Busan Tea and Craft Fair

Drop by while you can! The Bi-annual Busan Tea & Craft Fair is on at BEXCO. Interestingly enough it coincides with the Cafe Fair also going on at BEXCO. However, unless you are going to join a coffee franchise I suggest you drop by the Tea & Craft fair: Theres lots of stuff you can buy for your home or as gifts !

As you can see here there are alot of Korean tea sets for sale and at decent prices too !This year there are at least 3 vendors from China mostly selling Pu'er tea.

Mother of Pearl !

 Portable tea sets are also available for about 100,000 won (100USD) to 200,000 won.
There are also more potters this time as well ! Every 6 months it gets better and better. So drop by BEXCO the fair is open only until tomorrow !

Friday, May 18, 2012

Praises of the Korean Teapot: An ideal gift idea!

These days in the west restaurants, tea shop owners and conoisseurs are all singing the praises of loose leaf tea. There has been a mass proliferation of teashops in Canada and the U.S. selling loose leaf tea. Yet the West is lacking hte hardware required to get the most out of this 'loose leaf' tea that is so widely promoted and praised. The concept is simple: With loose leaf tea, in principle, the tea leaves are free to swish around and blossom open in the water releasing their fragrance more and providing consumers with a better cup of tea.
The problem the West is having (that has been solved here in Asia for centuries) is with hardware. Most western tepots have one hole for the spout and must use a wire mesh insert inside to hold the leaves. The problem with this is that the leaves haven't the full pot to roam around in. A more horrible solution is the tea infuser pictured at right:

Loose leaf tea, yet confined in a small ball like infuser. You might as well be using a teabag then ! Here in Korea we use teapots that don't require an infuser ~or~ a wire mesh insert ! Its what's inside that counts !
Here are two of my 3 Korean teapots I have at home. The one on the left was a gift. The larger one on the right is one I made myself.

 As you can see inside the solution is mindblowingly simple: instead of one hole there are tonnes of tiny ones forming a filter for the leaves ! This way the leaves are free to roam around the entire pot. With all the loose leaf tea shops opening up across Europe and North America the Korean teapot is an excellent gift to send your folks overseas while you are here in Asia!
Here in Busan Nampodong and Pyunghwa Markets have plenty of Korean tea sets. In Nampo market the Korean teasets @ Tamina go for about 20,000 - 40,000 won each.
Now I'm just wondering when the potters in the west will pick up on this idea...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sencha 煎茶 and Sumo 相撲

All this week Sumo wrestling is on TV via Japan's NHK broadcasting channel!                   To celebrate I pulled out my Chinese Gong-Fu teaset and brewed up some Japanese sencha green tea (煎茶) I picked up in Osaka to go with of all things nachos and salsa. I chose the sencha as it is Japanese matching the sumo. The gaiwan, as it was how we took the tea at an old teaseller's shop in Osaka. The lid of the gaiwan preserves the scent of the tea quite well.
The natcho chips and salsa are of course a western sports tradition...

 In breaks in the action I've been reading book 2 in the Tea Shop Mysteries series by Laura Childs.
Set in Charleston U.S.A the book is steeped in American teahouse culture providing, in the midst of the mystery plenty of information on different teas as well as the pastries served with them as part of the British/Western tea culture.
Ever since "Death by Darjeeling" I've been hooked on the series. Her website provides her stories in chronological order along with a synopsis for each : Tea Shop Mysteries.

I most highly recommend her stories for those getting into western tea culture or those looking to expand their western tea service.
 Here's a picture of my gaiwan. I'll provide instruction on using a gaiwan in a future post. Once I get better and more familiar with the Gong-Fu tea ceremony.