Perched on the ridge of Mt. Tohamsan (토함산) , looking East over the Churyeong (추령) Pass is one of the best kept secrets of Gyeongju: the Beak Nyeon Cha Jip (백년찻집) or “100 Years Tea House”. Whether you’re a dedicated tea aficionado or you need a break on the trip over to the East Sea and King Munmu’s tomb (문무대왕릉), Beak Nyeon Cha Jip is well worth the 30 minute drive from Gyeongju.
It’s obvious that owner of the tea house has put pain staking effort into creating a magical and relaxing atmosphere. So much so that the ambiance extends all the way out to the parking lot where patrons are greeted with a large display of Korean ceramics and flute music. Upon entering the front gate, visitors stroll through a lovely garden, filled with of lanterns and Bonsai trees, and then over a koi pond before reaching the door. The interior of the tea house has the sense of being open yet still warm and intimate. The décor is all made from hanji (한 지) paper lanterns and traditionally dyed fabrics.
100 Years Tea House is also a great place of souvenir shopping as they sell a wide selection of Korean tea paraphernalia; everything from tea cup and pots, to Korean folk or New Age music and of course a fine array of green tea, black tea and herbal infusions. The tea itself if excellent of course and most cups cost about 5,000 or 6,000 won. The menu is unfortunately only in Korean but they serve the usual selection of teas, such as ujeon (우전) green tea and herbal or fruit teas, like the maeshil cha (매실차), or “plum tea”.
My personal favorite is the omija cha (오미자 차), or 5 flavor tea, which is from the juice of the omija (오미자) or “red grape,” and served with pine nuts. If you’re up for something different, I can vouch for the Beak Nyeon Cha, and in-house herbal tea that’s thick and dark and has rice flavor that hints a cinnamon. The actual ingredients I’m not too sure about, but it’s quite delicious. Tea purists might want to try the small pot of boicha (보이차), or the aged black tea which has a musky flavor and a hefty caffeine kick.
Beak Nyeon Cha Jip is not exactly the easiest place to get to, but the experience is all the more a unique for the effort. The tea house sits on the crest of the ridge where the old road from Gyeongju leads over Mt. Tohamsan before descending down into the pass towards the east Sea and King Munmu’s Tomb. In all it’s only about a 15 minute drive from Bomun Resort; just follow N.R. 4 East from Bomun Resort (보문단지), follow it around Deokdongho Lake (덕동호) and then up through the Churyeong (추령) Pass. Keeping any eye out for the sign, take a sharp right immediately before the Churyeonng Tunnel and follow the road half a mile up to the ridge.
There is a bus stop at the village just before the tunnel, so it’s reachable by public transit. Just make sure the drivr knows where you want to get off. Also, if you’re feeling up for a hike, Beak Nyeon Cha Jip is only a 4 km hike along the ridge of Mt. Tohamsan to the famed Seokguram (석 굴암) Buddha Grotto.
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