Thursday, December 2, 2010
Korean Corn Tea (Oksusu-cha)
This blog is called "Japanese Snack Reviews", but it's my blog and I'll cover non-Japanese products on a very infrequent basis if I want to. Also, I'm guessing this is the sort of thing that anyone can pick up in a Korean or Asian grocery store and may be of interest to at least a few of my readers. To make a tenuous connection to Japan though, I will say that, if it weren't for one of my students, I would never have sampled this tea so living here is responsible for this review both in terms of my discovering the existence of corn tea and my having ready access to it (as there is a tiny little Korean goods shop not a minute from my apartment).
The student who told me about this said that she bought it because corn tea is supposed to be good for your skin and overall beauty. I did some research and corn tea is loaded with Vitamin E. It's also supposed to be good for digestion, high blood pressure, and to help those with diabetes for reasons I am unaware of. Only at the end of one article about corn tea and my second big cup of this tea did I learn that strongly brewed corn tea is supposed to be a potent and expedient laxative. I'll get back to you on that particular effect by the end of this review should it prove to be valid.
The import shop I bought this at sold this box of 15 bags for 230 yen ($2.76). At first, I thought this was a tad on the expensive side, but the truth is that I pay similar prices for about 10 bags of flavored teas made by Lipton such as maple, caramel, or mint tea. Lipton, incidentally, is considered more of a "premium brand" (especially the "yellow label" variety) in Japan than it is back home, where I consider it the dusty sweepings off of the tea leaf processing floor.
I only realized after getting the box home and turning it over that this isn't a box with 15 tea bags for 15 cups of tea, but that each bag prepared 2 liters of tea. This makes this much better value, but presents a bit of a pickle for the likes of me. I live with a devout non-tea drinker and putting away two liters by myself is going to take at least 3 days, if not longer. Also, I have no room in my small Japanese refrigerator for lots of drinks of any sort. Finally, I don't even have a 2 liter-size vessel to make the tea in!
Since necessity is the mother of invention, I improvised and made the tea in a pot and then poured it into two 1 liter decanters (which I couldn't fit in my fridge, but never mind). The leaves smell of roasted grain and the prepared tea smells a lot like popcorn. In its default state, it has a hint of Japanese barley tea (mugi-cha) as well as roasted corn flavoring. I think the roasting is what brings on the resemblance to mugi-cha since both oksusu-cha and Japanese barley tea use roasted grains. I didn't take a picture of the brewed tea, but it is a pale gold or deep gold color depending on how long you brew it. It can be drunk either hot or cold (though I marginally preferred it cold).
Plain, this is good, but with a little sweetener or sugar added, I would upgrade it to "great". It is tea, however, and one mustn't expect it to blow ones socks off, but the flavor is really very pleasant and carries a good deal of the essence of roasted corn. I'd definitely buy it again if I could get individual teabags rather than these monster 2-liter-making bags which force me to drink a lot and store a lot. If my refrigerator were less puny (and if I had a 2-liter container), I wouldn't even hesitate to buy these monster size teabags again. And that fast-acting laxative thing? It doesn't seem to be the least bit true, fortunately.