well ok i’ll admit that’s a bit of a hyperbolic headline since i don’t normally go to tea houses, but would i spend $16 for some tea and cake at this place in Seoul again? definitely.
i was having lunch near Gyeongbokgung Palace when i saw @JetsetCD‘s tip at a tea house (차마시는 뜰, “Chamasineun Tteul”) nearby. i had a bit of time before the free guided tour of the palace at 1:30 (it was not great, but free, so beggars can’t be choosers) so decided to check it out. i mean, how often does one go to a tea house? well, maybe quite often, i dunno, but as for me, i can count on one hand the number of times.
located perched on a corner (itself perched on a hill), you enter passing by the central courtyard, a well-kept lush pond area, and it just gets better.
the place just felt like a tea house should feel. up until now, my favorite one has been Dobra Cajouna in Český Krumlov, Czech Republic — random, but true — but this one ranks right up there with it. the music was right, the hushed ambience was right, the servingware was right — everything was just as you’d think a tea house should be.
i ordered the Teul house blend of hot tea and a sweet pumpkin steamed rice cake (menus in multiple languages). being as uncouth as i am i’m glad the server showed me how to work the tea set (let steep for 30 minutes, pour over strainer into right-side pitcher, then pour into cup) though i wish she also showed me how to work the thermos that held extra water (press the red button on top to open, press the gray lever that pops out back in to close) and how to eat the cake (i used the spatula as a fork/knife, though i wasn’t sure if you were supposed to use your hands? i didn’t get a napkin so i didn’t think you were supposed to).
the two wooden plates are there to hold the teapot lid and the strainer, by the way.
the cake was moist (as you’d expect a steamed cake to be) and sticky (as you’d expect a glutinous rice-based cake to be) with a nice faint hint of pumpkin.
the only downside was the price, 8,000 won (about $8) each for the tea and the cake, but the experience was so up there that i’d gladly revisit if i’m feeling splurge-y. i think it even passed the demure lady (and i don’t mean me!) test, with audible cooing and photo-taking by the other patrons. you’ll notice one of the ladies in the panorama had a fan. yes, they have a supply of fans to help cool yourself if you’ve imbibed a bit too much hot tea. so daintily swank (like me)!