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.

14 comments:

Patzie said...

This sounds very interesting esp. with digestion bit. I'm a tea-drinker so this should do for me.

Orchid64 said...

It really helped me with a stomachache this morning, so it may actually help!

Thanks for commenting!

Nora said...

Our favorite local (Korean-run) sushi shop served corn tea as a matter of course. I liked it so much I picked up a box--the same one you did. I'm glad to see you enjoyed it, too.

It's cool to see you branching out a little. I'm sure there's only so many varieties of KitKat you can review before you're ready to swear them off completely! Keep up the great work.

Ikkin-bot said...

I must find this for a friend who really loves corn and regularly eats popcorn for breakfast!

BuyWoWDeathKnight said...

i'm not really a fan of tea but this looks interesting:D

~Buy WoW DeathKnight~

OSI-Research said...

It is mutilating the neat bags, but perhaps you could open one bag and put its contents into a small jar (old jam jar or so) and only put a few leaves into a tea filter (egg filter there? or a cup with tinie holes? or make one from a bit of organza material?), so its just enough to fill one cup. In the Netherlands you can buy a whole pack of say mint leaves, without teabags. With dosing well, you could make one pack last a long time. I made my own tea bags and mixed teas from these packets and gave them away as gifts. Making the sachets took time, but making your own blends was highly satisfying.

OSI-Research said...

oh right, I just realized, maybe you could try just 'dipping' the bag in a cup briefly rather than leaving it in there for a while like you would your regular cup. Then let the bag cool off before storing it in the fridge. You could probably do this a few times especially if your container has a lid.

But storing dry leaves I think is a slightly better if not more hygienic, despite the little extra effort.

Orchid64 said...

OSI: It's an interesting idea, but ultimately, I'm just too lazy to go to the trouble!

That being said, I've grown rather addicted to the tea, so I have taken to brewing up a batch and decanting it into 500 ml. bottles for a quick fix. ;-)

Thanks to you and everyone for commenting!

Liz said...

They serve this in my favourite Korean restaurant in the winter. So delicious!

Jisoo said...

It makes me smile while reading.
You treat this tea as another herb or fruits flavor tea bags. But the reason one tea bag is for 2 liters is that Korean people drink and treat corn tea like water. With meal or when just thirsty, from the baby to the elderly people drink it. If Anyone ask for some water, in many case , corn tea or barely tea are served so naturally instead of real water. No caffeine and easy to go well with almost everything.

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Jisoo! Thanks for reading and commenting!

My main problem is that my refrigerator is too small to hold a 2-liter container. When I make this, I have to divide the tea into 4 500-ml. bottles after it cools down. It's very troublesome, but I really love this tea cold in the warmer months!

Sharna said...

I hate tea but I drink this every day. Try putting it in the fridge and drinking it cold. :)

Unknown said...

I bought this kind of tea on our trip to Korea last June. to my surprise, the tea should be served with 2 lt of water.
It taste similar to some kind of barley tea. The difference is that there is no such as acid taste (what you called that) as in the green tea. I will try later again with cold water and sugar.

KALMdown said...

I am not a big tea drinker (I prefer coffee). However, I love this tea so much I go through a gallon by myself every few days. I drink it more than water! I stock up on the bags whenever I hit Marufuji and Kaldi Farms.