Drinking tea as a way of life

By Korea Herald

Blended tea beverages reaching new heights

  • Published : Nov 21, 2012 - 19:55
  • Updated : Nov 21, 2012 - 22:00
Tea of the 21st century has gone beyond just boiling tea bags and blending herbs. Today, tea is used a basis to create a wide variety of flavor combinations and creations.

Mixing a blend of fruits, flowers, vanilla or milk to add flavor and texture to one’s drink is not uncommon. However, tea has opened the doors to even more creative blends and has even given rise to the profession of tea sommeliers.

For example, some of the hot tea recipes being taught at the Korea Tea Sommelier Institute include apple mint cinnamon tea, which is made by boiling water mixed with mint leaves, crushed cinnamon sticks, apple juice and clear cider (a beverage similar to Coca-Cola’s Sprite soft drink). 

For a new twist to the traditional winter hot cocoa, there’s a drink that blends rooibos tea leaves with boiling water, milk foam and chocolate powder, topped off with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Then there’s the personal favorite of tea sommelier Shawn Jung: black tea mixed with Irish whiskey and chocolate shavings. 

Tea sommelier Shawn Jung evaluates the taste and aroma of various teas. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

“Tea is really based on personal taste,” said Jung, who took a serious look into tea as a career path 10 years ago.

Historically, tea was primarily used for medicinal and healing purposes, according to Jung.

“It wasn’t until after the eighth century that people starting drinking tea for taste and enjoyment.”

Originating in China, tea has a 5,000-year history. According to Chinese legend, tea was discovered by Chinese Emperor Shan Nong in 2,737 B.C. The Emperor, who often boiled his drinking water, was in his garden when a few tea leaves accidently fell into his cup of boiling water. After drinking the tea water and feeling refreshed, the emperor had tea bushes planted throughout his palace garden, and the beverage was born.

It was not until the eighth century that tea was introduced to Korea and Japan, and it was only introduced into Western society in the 17th century.

Healing effects

Each country has a different personality in terms of the tea it produces, depending on the season and origin of the tea leaves.

“Similar to wine, the flavor and the aroma of tea is very important,” said Jung. He claims that good tea should be judged by its color, clarity, texture, aroma, balance and taste.

However, another key factor that he focuses on aside from the taste and pleasure of drinking tea is the effect that tea has on the human body in terms of health and relaxation. Many tea leaves, especially green tea, contain theanine, an amino acid that has chemical properties that help reduce mental and physical stress.

“Tea is also being used for its calming effect. Tea is good for you during stressful situations,” he said. “I think drinking tea on a daily basis can really help people a lot.”

By Julie Jackson (