Monday, September 8, 2014
Korean Lotus Green Tea
Popping in the tea house quickly to grab some Dragon Well on the way home from work one day, I noticed a large glass pitcher on the tea table with what appeared to be a soggy lotus flower inside. Peeking inside, it was a lotus flower and had large tea leaves layered throughout the pedals. The girl tending the shop asked if I'd like a taste, but knowing if I sat down, I wouldn't get up again, I thanked her for the offer and skedaddled.
The next time I was in for a more leisurely visit, I asked Mrs Kim about it, mostly just curious how it was prepared. She went into the fridge, removed a lotus bud wrapped in bubble wrap, and gave it to me. Her daughter explained, traditionally, it was made by taking a boat out on to a lotus pond, placing a silk pouch full of tea inside a lotus flower, and as the flower closes for the night, enveloping the pouch, the leaves would absorb the lotus' essence. At dawn, one would return to the pond and collect the pouch as the lotus opened to meet the sunrise. Nowadays, they cut the lotus bud, make a small opening at the top, are fill it with about 30-40 grams of "dae-jak cha", forth-flush "large-leaf tea". She added that her father prefers the traditional way, and I agree in that I at least prefer the concept.
They instructed me to keep it in the fridge for a full week, then shred the entire thing into small strips, the pedals, the seed pod, the stem, all, mix it up well then separate it into five small freezer bags and keep it frozen until use. When the week had passed, I did just that, with the help of my daughter, which was a bigger chore than I expected but a truly enjoyable one. The pedals had a soft, powdered texture and the gentle, sweet and lovely scent covered our fingers. The tea leaves had become moist, steeped in the spirit of the lotus.
For brewing, Mrs Kim suggested a glass pot and only 60°C for a mere 5 seconds for steeps 1~3, 70°C and 10 seconds for steeps 4~6, and 80°C for steeps 7~10. I felt my arm trying to revolt against the order to pour after just five seconds, it just seemed much too fast for a flower or a green tea, but faith in Mrs Kim prevailed and for good reason! I've had plenty of lotus leaf tea, some mix with a small amount of flower, but this was the first time I'd tried tea from only the flower. It was beyond expectation; full, sweet, soft, heavenly. The flavour was similar to something along the lines of bubblegum ice cream, but natural. There's little else that comes to mind to compare it with. After a few steeps, the sweet, floral flavour faded and the taste become more savoury. A friend compared it to eggplant, which coincided with my thought of roasted vegetable.
My expectations for this tea were for it to taste like green tea with a slight lotus flavour. But it really is lotus tea with a slight green tea flavour. A very lovely and beautiful tea.
by Joseph 吉道 Giuseppe