▲ A tea room in the International Tea Museum. Photo courtesy International Tea Museum
It is difficult to travel three blocks in Jeju City without hitting at least one café or restaurant that serves tea. But for the tea connoisseur who is seeking a sophisticated brew in an atmosphere dedicated to the art of tea, the International Tea Museum in Shin Jeju is the only place to find satisfaction.
The shop is well stocked with ceramic cups, saucers, teapots, and other essentials, and of course tea galore for all tastes, moods, and occasions. As a kind of center piece of the cafe sits a gigantic red sand tea pot 220- centimeters-high and weighing about 500 kilograms. A refined puer [Camellia sinensis] blend that comes in powder form, used like instant coffee, is one of the many unique enticements for sale. As much as anyone would have to love a steaming cup of tea, the green and puer tea swirl ice cream is a reason alone to visit the first floor of the establishment.
The second floor is an area reserved for the serious tea lover. While the complimentary cappuccino tea served at the entrance may be enough of a reason to venture up, the museum is loaded with paraphernalia that may not be incredibly interesting unless tea is at the heart of the individual.
An assortment of tea brands from around the world is stocked neatly on shelves across from archaic coffee servers, such as a 1904 server from New York. An intricately designed tea set from the Middle East sits next to a display of matryoshka dolls and a map of China in the shape of a gong made out of dried tea.
Owner Woo Jae Min took over 10 years collecting items for the museum, which only opened February of 2009, and he changes the exhibit three times a year. Some of the pieces on display were ordered, but he enjoyed gathering much from places he personally visited, like the impressive collection of silver stirring spoons from all over the US, such as San Francisco, California and “Amish Country,” Pennsylvania.
Tea is only a starting point for Woo, who plans on opening a museum that shares his love of food with the world as well. A food and drink enthusiast, Woo has held three open lectures at the museum about the benefits of tea, which he summed up briefly in an interview as being a common treatment for diarrhea, an aid in maintaining a healthy weight, and a positive source of energy.
Woo also maintains an active blog, www.teapark.net, about the museum, including a wealth of pictures and other tea related points of interest. He hopes to broadcast a tea ceremony online performed by his staff workers in the near future.
Another plan for the museum is to make it more English-friendly. Although some signs are in English, the majority are in Korean. There are Chinese and Japanese speakers on staff, but reservations for a tour through the museum must be made in Korean.
Currently, the third floor and roof of the museum are under certain repairs and updates but will be open again in a few weeks. The roof is adorned with benches on which to sit and sip while listening to the peaceful trickling of the large teapot fountain covered in greenery. The third floor is another cafe area with two rooms included that are designed to look like a traditional Korean and Japanese tea ceremony room, which is available to anyone upon request.
In the winter months, the museum and cafe opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m., and normal hours are from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. To make reservations to have a tea ceremony performed for a party or for more information about the museum, call 064-748-9009 (Korean only).
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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