Whenever foreign friends ask me what kind of gifts to send back home I always recommend tea. Of course not just any tea. A tea that is incredibly delicious and unique to Korea. It really is one of the most relevant and useful “souvenirs” you could get some one. After all, tea is more than just a drink; it’s a culture.
Here’s just a brief history lesson on Korea’s tea culture. “Tea time” has existed in Korea for more than 600 years! Tea culture first began to prosper in Korea during the late 신라 (Silla Era) and throughout the 고려제국 (Goryeo Dynasty). During the 신라 Empire people began to drink tea on a daily basis. It wasn’t until the 고려제국, however, that tea rituals came into play and a government office was established for these rituals to take place for the royal palace. It was called 다방 (Dabang), which is what we refer to as cafes today! Tea rituals were performed to greet foreign diplomats, at royal weddings, for coronations, etc. Tea played a very important role in social gatherings, and continue to do so today, though usually in a much more informal fashion.
O’Sulloc is a tea house that specializes in imported 제주도 (Jeju Island) tea. Like so many other places, it was by accident that I stumbled across this little treasure a few years ago. I was helping my boyfriend look for some gifts to to take abroad on behalf of his company when I suggested some Korean tea. I’m not talking about your stereotypical green tea, but truly unique teas with an alluring aroma. Teas that actually taste the way they smell.
There are now four locations, but my personal favorite is located in 인사동 (Insa-dong). On the first floor there is a shop that sells a nice selection of these teas (leaves/ bags), as well as handcrafted tea sets. On occasion they also brew a large batch of tea in an open area for customers to watch and sample.
The second floor holds the actual tea house. The light-colored wooden interior and pale green trimming is simple and creates a spacious serene atmosphere. It’s really beautiful in the afternoon when the sunlight floods the room, giving it almost an outdoor-like feel. The third floor was just recently renovated into a lounge area. If you’re looking for quiet spot to duck into for a bit, this is the place to do it. The room is a soft array of blue and gray hues with wooden accents. It’s nice and quiet, so it’s a good place to study, work or simply unwind. The dim lighting, comfy lounge chairs and oversized pillows also add to its ambiance of comfort.
Their tea selection is pretty expansive. You can find things like Chrysanthemum Tea, Tropical Dream Green Tea, citron green tea and red papaya black tea just to name a few. My personal favorite is the iced apple honey milk tea. The ingredients are all separated by densities, so it has a really pretty three-layered look to it when they serve it to you. It has the perfect blend of sweetness and even little apple pieces in it. I could drink it all day, every day. The hazelnut green tea latte is also amazing! It’s light, sweet and comes topped off with whipped cream, drizzled caramel and almond slices. Unfortunately this delightful beverage is a seasonal drink that’s only offered in the winter. So if you get a chance, you should definitely try it out before the end of winter.
In addition to their fabulous drinks, they also serve unique desserts such as green tea chocolat, green tea cheese tiramisu, green tea & earl grey sweet rice cakes and green sweet rice waffles. Each season they offer special off menu items like 팥빙수 (patbingsu) and green tea soft-serve ice cream in the summer. My boyfriend and I love the green tea chocolat, which is a creamy green tea cake with a crunchy-creamy chocolate center. It’s amazing! The green tea ice cream is also a delicious surprise. Green tea ice cream usually has a strong artificial flavor brought on by the heavy use of matcha powder, but not in this case. The ice cream is light with a distinct, but not overwhelming, green TEA flavor. Even my boyfriend (who is not a fan of anything green tea) loved it!
I suppose the only downside to this place is the cost. Most drinks run about ₩7,000 ~ ₩9,500 with desserts ranging from ₩4,500 ~ ₩6,000 and believe me, you will want to try a dessert. What I recommend is trying their set menu. For singles, it comes with a drink and dessert and for couples it comes with two different drinks and a dessert. Usually these sets are only for their seasonal items, but it comes at a discounted price. It’s really the best way to get your money’s worth. I suppose it’s not the kind of place you can visit often, but you definitely should if you haven’t yet or if you’re just visiting. It will definitely be worth your time. So, until next time… happy eating!