Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Korean Ttok-cha

I can honestly say I'd never heard of Ttok-cha* before about one month ago. That was when my well-traveled and highly knowledgeable tea friend Eric Glass, who had recently attended a demonstration on this interesting Korean brew at the Penn State Tea Institute, told Cinnabar and me of his plan to bring a piece to Phoenix Tea and prepare it for us correctly. Although I didn't really know what to expect, I was very excited.

When, at last, the day arrived, I was treated to the following display of olive-pit-charcoal pyrotechnics!

Snap, Crack, Pop and Burn!

After we had our glowing olive-pit coals resting in Cinnabar's brazier, one lucky piece of ttok-cha was carefully roasted for about 10 minutes until it developed a reddish brown color and softened slightly.

While the ttok-cha was being roasted, a glass kettle of spring water was brought to a boil. When it was deemed ready, the ttok-cha was placed in water and kept at a gentle simmer. Eric had planted the "three and a half hour steep time of excellence" seed in my mind. I had complete faith that something magical would happen when this benchmark was reached.

The tea liquor surprised me by turning dark red fairly quickly. We tasted it a couple times at random intervals and these early sips were pleasant enough, but we all knew that they would be nothing when compared to what was soon to come.

The waiting turned out to be easy. Thanks to an unexpected visit from an excitable local newsman and some top notch Da Hong Pao oolong served up by Becky Li we had plenty to occupy our minds.

Unfortunately, Becky and her friend William had to depart at the 3 hour mark. We toasted her visit with some 3 hour ttok-cha. It was great... but it needed something... you guessed it... it needed to steep for about 30 more minutes.

At last, the magic hour arrived! 12,600 seconds after we submerged the ttok-cha, Cinnabar poured the steaming hot, amber colored tea. Shu Shu and I gazed on in wonder and anticipation.

Ahhh. I truly loved it. It is a rich, rosy, fruity, toasty, luscious, complex and fragrant cup of tea. It felt thick and syrupy in my mouth. It made me feel relaxed and comfortable.

Interestingly, after it had simmered for another hour or so, it started losing flavor quickly in my opinion and by the following day it had lost most of its flavor. Even with many hours of steeping behind it, the little tea cake remained intact. It reminded me of a flower, it bloomed beautifully, and then it faded away but it was worth every second.

*It's pronounced something like "doke-cha." Tteok-cha, ddok-cha, and ddeok-cha are a few other fun ways to spell it. Check out this Cha Dao blog post for a better understanding of this old style of Korean tea.


Matthew Thivierge (Mr.T) said...

What a wonderful find! I shall certainly look for this kind of tea when I arrive back in Busan (S.Korea) next week! A truly great and informative post. Any idea where Tteok cha may be purchased in Korea? (it will make my searching that much more easier...)

Brett said...

Thanks for reading Mr. T! Sorry I don't know where to get this tea in Korea but I suspect you'll have few problems finding it. Here in America Morning Crane Tea is a good connection to contact.

Jason M. Cohen said...

DDok Cha is near impossible to find unless you know a producer. Even Mr. Hong, the Korean Tea Master the Institute works with produces it only once every 3 years or so. Many Koreans now drink Pu'er as a "replacement" or because of good marketing in Korea; but the reality is, Korea is a coffee drinking company... There's not a whole lot of good tea to be found!

If you will be in Busan check out this post: http://www.cultofquality.com/index.php/2012/05/korea-2012-coffee-in-busan/
If you stop in, please tell Niel I say hello!

All the Best,
Jason M. Cohen
- Director of the Tea Institute at Penn State

Eric G. said...

Interestingly enough, Matthew, o5 TeaBar, soon to open in vancouver in a week or 2 ,are trying their hardest to carry such tea. I met with the owner, Pedro, at his office just yesterday and allthough i can't say with certainty, i think they are going to bring even more than just tteok-cha to the North American Market!
-Eric Glass

Cho Hak said...

You might like to know that we at Morning Crane Tea supplied this ttok-cha to our friend Eric Glass for this experience. It was made by the renowned tea master Kim Song Tae and the well-known teaware artist and tea master Park Jong Il. We will have this tea available at Morning Crane Tea this spring for everyone who is interested. Our inventory is too low to promote it to all but we do have a few disks for the right experience. Incidentally, I disagree with Jason. While Koreans do drink a lot of coffee. There is plenty of really excellent tea to be found and we're trying to bring it to you. We will have both types of ttok-cha in 2013 after our May tea tour.

Brett said...

Cho Hak - Thank you very much for the comment. I knew that Eric got the Ttok-cha from your company Morning Crane Tea and that it was made by tea master Kim Song Tae. It was a major oversight on my part to not mention these important points in this post.