Friday, June 08, 2012

North Korean Tea to Make the Dear Leader Proud

Circa 2004, my friend Sof returned from Seoul with this azalea tea harvested from BaekDu Mountain - the birth place of none other than the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il. Yes the very same Dear Leader who is the revered inventor of "double bread with meat" and who is also continuing on in our collective virtual memories as the man who looked at things. (My personal favorite is DL looking at squid but I digress.)

In reading the stories on the web, it all started with an obsessive dream of a South Korean tea drinker named Nam Bong Oo(남봉우).  He illegally snuck into North Korea through the Chinese border risking his life evading North Korean soldiers even encountering a bear in search of the existence of this tea which he believed held the "fragrance of the nation".  True or not as related to a women's magazine, such efforts are many notches above vendors visiting tea farms.  However after the start of thawing relations between the two Koreas, Mr. Nam was able to commercialize tea production in 2000. And now you can be party to this tea through ( which processes and packages this tea(백산차) or through other Korean resellers which sell pu-erh as well. (This is an aside but you can see's Menghai cake prices are not that good.)

I had this azalea tea languishing in my tea closet for nine years and I brought it out for a brew. Could this be the very type of tea that the Dear Leader himself could have imbibed on occasion?   He is reputed to be more of a Hennessy XO man. Tea probably was not the drink of choice for his Pleasure Palace with the Joy Brigade.  Purported to help bronchitis, colds, skin diseases,  gastric ulcers,  and infertility, this azalea tea has fortitude that would make any comrade swell with pride. Don't let the light color of the brew fool you.  Extremely spicy with turpentine notes,  I feared for my liver and kidneys. This tea had not mellowed out one iota in 9 years and it took about 6 cups to tire out the leaves somewhat.

A little more research reveals the scientific name for the tea plant is Ledum palustre which is also known as Marsh Labrador Tea - a homeopathic remedy in the West. It also contains toxic terpenes that are not friendly to the central nervous system when taken in large doses. I have to admit I am feeling not well. I think I have to eat a big bowl of ice cream to neutralize the toxins.

1 comment:

  1. hster,

    Hahaha... Koreans absolutely LOVE Menghai.

    No matter what Puerh shop you visit in Korea, its pretty much a guarantee they have Menghai cakes proudly displayed. Can remember that one dealer repeatedly contested that Menghai was the best, hands down, no arguments.

    So funny.