Tea & symphony
Tea & Symphony
Artists put charm and summer into a cup of Korean Tea at Lavendale Café, Kim Triegaardt discovers.
You can order coffee at the Lavendale café but to get the full experience of this unique establishment(between Tai Tapu and Little River) you need to try one of the original Korean teas on offer.
Lavendale is home to Korean artists Aaron and Susan Seo and it is from this 100-year-old Canterbury homestead that the couple shares the delicate art of Korean culture with visitors to their gallery-café-museum.
Susan explains that drinking tea is a gentler alternative to coffee and in Korea it is not just about ‘tasting the flavour’ but also ‘thinking of the flavour’.
“Tea lounges are for the family and friends to come together and enjoy the experience – to reflect on life.”
Forget espresso bars where you knock back a short black and rush on with your life; the Korean tea experience is about meditation and sharing.
Part of the charm of having tea at Lavendale is the whole experience. I order the Korean green tea It’s a three-part symphony that includes pouring the boiling water from one bowl into another. After allowing it to cool briefly you pour the water ionto the teapot where you let it steep the tea-leaves for just 20 seconds before pouring the brew into a third smaller bowl.
The pale yellow green-tinged liquid smells fresh with slightly nutty pine notes. The taste is refreshing with a hint of lime and stronger flavours of flowers and a slight sweetness.
Aaron says Korean green tea comes with the same antioxidant properties as its Chinese and Japanese cousins. It helps against ageing, cholesterol, weight-gain and cancer, he says. In fact, he also warns that within 10 minutes of drinking the green tea I may have to head to bathroom because the tea is so efficient at washing toxins out of the system.
Korean green tea is slightly more expensive than that produced in neighbouring China because less of it is grown in Korea. Susan also explains that the leaves are processed differently. The very soft, young leaves are harvested and then pan-roasted; stirred in pots over a fire and slowly dried without being allowed to burn.
Along with the green tea, the Soes also serve specialty fruit teas – citron and date.
We order a serving of both and they arrive in traditional Korean style. Large bowl-type mugs are filled to the brim with steaming liquid. The bowl of citron tea smells like summer.
The essential ingredient of this tea is a round Asian citrus fruit know as yuja that is chopped and mixed into a type of marmalade with honey or sugar. The flavor is a blend of lemon and orange.
The date, or jujube, tea is sweeter with strong honey flavours. Its base is a jammy mix of chopped red Chinese dates(jujube) and honey. The hot water is poured on the mixture and then left to seep, drawing out the rich, smoky flavours.
Aaron sayts the date tea is good for relieving stress.
Susan also has other herb teas on her kitchen shelves. There’s buckwheat tea made from roasted buckwheat which is considered good for high blood pressure and a herb tonic tea that she says was drunk in the palaces in Korea.
“It revitalizes you and strengthens the body. It is great to drink in winter.”
However, she says the tonic tea is not popular with kiwis who don’t like its strong smell.
Tea for two: Susan and Aaron Seo
in the Korean-styled lounge at Lavendale
The experience is made all the more serene by the atmosphere. Ancient millstones and carvings brought from Korea by the Seos are a still presence among tumbling gardens of peonies, wild roses and lavender. Bird-song emanates from the 100-year-old mulberry and elm trees.
“We have created a space for the people,” Susan says. “A place where kiwi and Korean cultures can mix and enjoy the experience of sharing tea.”
How to drink Korean green tea
1. Place a small amount of Korean green tea (available from specialty Korean food stores) in a one cup sized teapot.
2. Fill a seperate bowl with boiling water.
3. Pour enough water for one cup from the first bowl into a second smaller bowl.
4. When the water has cooled to at least 80 degrees Celsius pour this water into the teapot.
5 leave for 20seconds and then pour into a third even smaller bowl or cup.
Wed , Nov 11, 2009
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