Drinking Wild Herbs and Flowers

Different types of contemporary cafes and tea shops are sprouting here and there. But in a small alley in Jung-gu, Daejeon, where streets are sometimes packed with busy people, there is a place for serenity and warmth that takes you back to ancient Korea.

For today’s story, we are featuring this elegant tea shop and our meeting with the shop owner, Ju Phil. Sosanwon, a Korean traditional tea house, provides a calming place where you can enjoy tea in a very traditional style. Sosanwon, literally means “small mountain shop”.

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As soon as you close the store’s door behind you, you will feel the tea shop’s elegantly antique ambiance–wooden cabinets holding delicate ceramics and potteries, some traditional Korean calligraphies hanging on the walls, and little green plants that adds lively detail to the shop. The shop boasts not only of its fine teas but a good tea gallery.

IMG_1777 Inside the tea shop

IMG_8711 On the right side at the entrance of the shop, there’s the very traditional Korean tea table where you sit on the floor. This resembles a traditional Korean tea ceremony.

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 Traditional wooden cabinets carrying ceramic centerpieces and jars  IMG_1755On the left side at the entrance, handmade ceramics are arranged in the wooden shelfIMG_1771 In the center of the shop, a fascinating furniture holds delicate ceramics for display
IMG_1786 Different kinds of ceramic teacups and teapots arranged beautifully in wooden shelves serves as backdrop while having a generous cup of tea
IMG_1785These colorful tubes and packages contain tea flowers and herbs which the shop sells for those who want to bring home their favorite tea
IMG_8714 Traditional way of making tea leaves
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Newspaper clippings featuring the shop and its owner–Sosanwon is quite popular in Daejeon, KoreaIMG_1745
 Ju Phil, owner and director of Sosanwon

A scheduled meeting with the owner happened on a rainy afternoon. It was really a perfect time to have some tea, I thought. The owner greeted us warmly and have us seated in front of him. He was the one who served us different kinds of tea. Meanwhile, through our conversations, we were able to know the deep meaning behind meeting over a tea.

IMG_1748 As soon as we were seated, one staff gave us a beverage which was a cold grape juice. Actually, it tasted different than what I was expecting. I was wondering if there was really a slight hint of alcohol in it, similar to wine…

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We found out that it was a wild grapes enzyme juice. The alcohol taste is probably due to the fermentation process it went through. This beverage is good for refreshment and for digestion. The owner told us that they don’t really serve this beverage to their customers, unless there are important guests. He was really a funny and light-hearted person.


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Now serving, the first tea he prepared…
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He then asked me what is my favorite kind of tea. Unfortunately for me though, I only know the contemporary milk teas. I just told him that I really like sweet flavor. At once, he picked up a small vial of dried tea leaves from the cabinet beside him. He said it has a mysteriously sweet flavor…IMG_8753 This is the Fine Dew tea (Goun-yiseul cha). According to the shop’s handbook, these kind of tea leaves are quite rare. At the first taste, there was actually no hint of sweetness. However, as soon as you swallow it, your tastebuds will delight in its sweetness. It leaves you a feeling of enchantment!

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Next, he grabbed a big jar of dried flowers. He filled another teapot with hot water and then put a dried white magnolia flower in it. The water soon become colored.IMG_8803

White magnolia tea
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Another kind of tea he prepared was made from dried chrysanthemum flowers.

IMG_8812 Siberian Chrysanthemum Tea

While he prepares the tea and my other two Korean friends are talking with him, I readied the camera for some photoshoot. There are too many interesting things to take pictures of!

IMG_8724IMG_8751IMG_8752IMG_8749IMG_1759IMG_8801IMG_8810IMG_8805Dried lotus flowersIMG_8802IMG_8784IMG_8788

Later, a package came into the store. It was a box set of tea cups and tea pots. He started to arrange them on the table. I started to think that he actually a tea set collector!

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Miniature ceramic jars and pots; they are merely an inch tall!IMG_8791IMG_8811
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The design on these cups are very intricate. These are already prepared on the tea ceremony table.IMG_1766IMG_8782IMG_1742These little green plants are too irresistable!IMG_1773IMG_8771IMG_8722IMG_1790IMG_8736IMG_8764IMG_8765
I really like the inclusion of green plants inside the shop. The  effect is really impressive and refreshing.IMG_8746
IMG_8760More traditional ceramicsIMG_8761IMG_8762IMG_8769IMG_8776IMG_1782IMG_1761IMG_1781Even the chairs are made up of wooden logsIMG_1770IMG_1775IMG_8748Korean traditional calligraphy and art. He said he got them in the nearby shops in Jung-gu. The place is actually known for Korean traditional shops.IMG_8781IMG_8721IMG_1769IMG_8773IMG_1753IMG_8712
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Now, time for some picture taking for the four of us!IMG_1794

It was a very fine experience for  me to have been invited for a tea by Mr. Ju Phil himself. He didn’t ask us to pay for anything. Actually, the real meaning behind having some tea is to promote a good sense of friendship. This traditional tea shop is really made to treat people well. It was worth noting that traditional teas are very different from the contemporary tea shops which youths are more accustomed with.

I think, true serenity comes from a pure heart of wanting to just treat people well, or, in my case, of being treated well and accepting that warmth we have all shared. 

Before we part ways, he gave us some samples of the tea we had. He really is very generous and kind.
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Thank you so much, Mr. Ju Phil and the whole staff of Sosanwon!

I highly recommend you to try out this shop if you want to have some fine tea moments. Also, you can order their tea leaves online or view their products in their website here. If you are near Daejeon’s downtown, visit their shop in the map shown below!

Do you have any experiences of Korean traditional tea? Leave us a comment below.



Note: All pictures are personally taken by us. These photos are subject to copyright. 

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