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Sujeonggwa: Traditional Korean Tisane

March 28, 2008



In addition to their own specific form of the tea ceremony, the Koreans have a centuries-old tradition of drinking tisanes prepared with fruits, spices and leaves. One of these, which I discovered in a Korean grocery store, is sujeonggwa (수정과, 水正果), sometimes spelled “soojunggwa” and other ways. It is made from ginger, cinnamon, sugar, dried persimmon and pine nuts. The dried form that I purchased comes in small packets of powdered mixture which dissolve into boiling water, producing a lovely, sweet flavored and refreshing beverage. The chewy, sweet whole pine nuts float on the surface of the yellow-orange liquor. The English post-export ingredients sticker on the box does not list persimmon, but since this particular tea is a standard in Korean cuisine, and since persimmons are pictured prominently on the box, I am pretty certain of its inclusion. More information is available from the manufacturer (primarily in Korean).

Here is a one recipe for making it from scratch, and here is another.

The quote that follows, from an article on the importance of the seasons in Korean tea drinking, in the Japanese magazine Kateigaho, is an explanation of the socio-political factors that affected the history of tea traditions in Korea:

Why haven’t green and black teas steeped with leaves ofCamellia sinensis taken hold in Korea as they have in neighboring China and Japan? Their absence stems from Confucianism’s infiltration in the 14th century. According to Korea’s oldest history book, Samguk Sagi (Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms), the custom of drinking tea spread to Korea from China together with Buddhism.

During the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910), however, Confucianism became Korea’s national religion and tea production, which had been intimately linked to Buddhist temples, disappeared as Buddhism fell into decline. From then on, Koreans applied their health knowledge to developing teas using medicinal ingredients. Along with Confucianist principles such as respecting one’s elders, the concept “food is medicine” became firmly ensconced in the minds of the Korean people, and medicinal teas became a staple.

The wikipedia article on Korean tea is also a good source for additional information.

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