As we’ve been on the topic of tea lately, I figure it’s about time that I post on Ah Sa Ga Tea House (아사가찻집). Ah Sa Ga is in the middle of Gyeongju’s downtown shopping district, on Bonhwang-ro Culture Street (봉황로). It’s been open for almost a decade, though I only discovered it a little bit ago myself. For years, I thought it was a pottery shop, which I hope is excusable as they do actually display and sell tea sets in the front of their shop.
When you step out through the back of the shop into the tea house proper, it’s a bit like stepping back in time. The tea house itself is actually an old residence, built in the traditional hanok (한옥) style of architecture, which gives the place a relaxing and an unassuming charm. The various rooms all meander off from a central courtyard with a garden, which is all the more lovely for being a bit unkempt. Plus the rooms themselves have a rustic elegance and are decorated with hanji (한지) , or hand-made paper, calligraphy, painting, traditional Korean pottery and wood crafts.
Tea connoisseurs will enjoy the wide selection of green teas on the menu. I personally suggest the Ujeon (우전) green tea or Malcha (말차) powdered green tea. Ah Sa Ga also serves Pu-erh, or fermented tea. Pu-erh, or Boicha (보이차) as it’s known in Korea, is not for the feint of heart as it can have a musky, bitter flavor. I like it myself, but it might be a bit of an acquired taste.
If you’re not in the mood for tea or you prefer something non-caffeinated , Ah Sa Ga also has a whole range of fruit, herbal and medicinal infusions. They’ve got everything from lotus, ginseng, mugwort and buckwheat tea to persimmon, plum and pine needle teas. Of course my favorite is the poignant omicha (오미차), or 5 flavor tea. Menus are in both Korean and English and tea is served with a light snack, free of charge.
Ah Sa Ga Teahouse makes a pleasant respite from sightseeing at the nearby Daereungwon (대릉원) or Neoseo-ri (너서리왕릉) Tombs Parks, or souvenir shopping in the craft and antique shops of Bonghwang-ro Culture Street (봉황로). In fact, Ah Sa Ga itself sells a variety of green, black and fermented tea, along with tea sets and other assorted tea paraphernalia, all of which are great souvenirs or Christmas presents for your favorite tea head. I’ve also been told that Ah Sa Ga gives lessons in the traditional Korean Tea Ceremony, which is something I might have to look in to.
Ah Sa Ga Tea House is easy to find, as it’s right in the middle of Bonghwang-ro, which is the street with the statues, lamp posts shaped like Cheomseondae Observatory and craft shops. It’s just a block around the corner from the downtown McDonalds and about 2 blocks north of Bonghwangdae (봉황대), the huge tomb with the trees on top. It’s on the left, just before the parking lot and it shares the same wooden store front with a galguksu restaurant and a vegetarian cooking school.
View Gyeongju Restaurant Reviews on Gyeongjublog.com in a larger map