A fluke change in flight times recently gave me & my honey 24 hours in Seoul, South Korea, at the start of our honeymoon. Just 3 days before we left, a quick google search of “cool neighborhoods in Seoul” swayed us to roll with this new fate and check out the neighborhood of Insadong during our layover–and we fell in love. <3
Insadong, known for its art galleries and antiques, had a network of small winding allies that branch off a main street packed with a variety of merchants, restaurants, cafes, and art. The area was packed with a mix of locals and tourists (although we only overheard other english speakers once, so we felt that we were in our own private world for this quick adventure). But with so little time, there was so much to see and do and taste.
We ran all over town with a map and a camera–full-on unabashed tourist style. I grabbed a fruit smoothie for breakfast from a modern Italian style cafe, where my husband had the best Americano of his life–funny how that always happens when you’re half way around the world. We then wandered the gorgeous gardens of the old royal palace. I fulfilled my longtime fantasy of eating fresh steamed dumplings from a street cart–and they were as tasty as I had always imagined. And when we found a little tea shop, we had to check it out.
At the entrance of the shop, a guy was in the process of heating tea leaves in a large copper wok. I initially thought he was firing the tea leaves during processing, but upon closer look realized that he was re-heating already processed and dried whole leaf tea. What?! He then proceeded to make a cup of tea for us to sample–a bright vegetal green with both steamed and panfired notes. So tasty! This guy was onto something!
So we stayed for a pot… and a re-steep…
Fast forward a couple weeks through Bali’s rice paddies, monkeys, chickens, sea turtles, and back again, and after browsing our photos from the trip, I’m inspired to try this fresh re-roasting tea trick at home. And of course the geek in me has to test a few different types of tea to compare the differences in effect. So I prepared some side by side tastings between regular leaves & re-fired ones, and here’s what I found.
Note: To re-roast the tea, I simply heated the leaves over medium heat in a stainless steel frying pan, with no oil for roughly 2 minutes, while tossing the leaves to get even heating.
Dragonwell – a Chinese green tea heated via pan-firing during processing – Would this second pan-firing bring out the natural roasted notes in this tea?
- The heat affected the flavor profile dramatically! It was not more dragonwell-esque, but it was tasty. (Loved by 4 out of 4 volunteer tasters here in the office). The flavor became super roasted, leaning towards notes of hojicha while maintaining a markedly green base. The leaves also dramatically changed color from deep green to yellowish and brown while in the pan, as they further oxidized, and the liquor of the brews was also markedly different.
Sencha – a Japanese green tea heated via steam during processing – Would pan firing a steamed tea muddle the unique fresh grassy flavors?
- The sencha was not visibly affected by the heating, likely due to high water content in the steamed leaves. The leaves remained their deep green color, but I did smell the roasting effects when I pulled the leaves off the burner. The flavor of the steeped tea became nutty like popcorn, reminding all of us of genmaicha with a twist. The roasting also removed the natural oceanic kombu flavors from the liquor. While not enhancing the essence of sencha, we all enjoyed this unique new brew.
Thin Mint Green – a blend of peppermint and hojicha, a Japanese green tea roasted during processing – Would the natural roasted flavor become even stronger with a fresh firing?
- The re-roasting of this blend was just bizarre. I couldn’t taste any enhanced roasting notes in the hojicha, if they did exist. The roasted peppermint turned into cabbage-like flavor that took over as the dominant note. No longer minty or roasty, this fresh roasted blend was a mellow cabbage soup flop.
Admittedly, I might have used too high of heat during the re-roasting, and could probably work on my technique, but I’ll continue to play with this little trick on Saturday mornings and see what I can come up with. I’m curious to try re-roasting hojicha on its own, and wonder what the heat would do for black teas. I might even need to return to Seoul to take a second look at this technique ;)
another great teahouse we found during our other brief layover in Seoul =)
Has anyone dabbled with re-roasting tea? If so, what temperature, for how long, and with what teas did you re-roast?