Korean Corn Tea: As Bad As It Sounds

My favorite lunchtime stop during the week is Super H Mart, the enormous Korean grocery store / food court that occupies an old Flagship Randall's off Bingle and I-10. Not only do they serve up some mean kimchi fried rice and bulgogi in the food court, you can always be sure to stumble across some new and fascinating product in their aisles.

Most of the time, the food products are delicious and I come away a better person, enlightened on yet another aspect of foreign cuisine and eager to share that knowledge. Rarely, though, the new product is so horrifying and disgusting as to merit an entire blog post warning others.

That product? Korean Corn Tea.

Oksusu cha, or corn tea, is a popular beverage in Korea and is not -- despite its name -- actually tea. Instead, it's a tisane made from steeping roasted corn kernels in hot water. The corn kernels are rendered sweet by roasting, which makes the corn tea naturally sweet in turn.

This is fantastic in theory, if you like the idea of pureed kettle corn that's been put through a strainer and then watered down. If that's you, Korean corn tea is where it's at. If you're like me, on the other hand, the corn tea will taste like watery death, like malt liquor with added sugar and without the numbing benefits of alcohol.

The taste of the corn tea is disappointingly antipodal from the cheery, wholesome packaging. Look at the girl happily hugging the freakishly oversized ear of corn. Look at the sunny, bright yellow bottle. These things scream, "You'll love this! It will fulfill all your beverage desires! It's like Sunny D but better!" Don't be blindsided by these things like I was; this stuff is like the Venus Flytrap of drinks.

My sole source of comfort in this beverage adventure has been discovering that other people feel the same way I do about corn tea, even people who live in Korea!

In my writing class the students were supposed to brainstorm about disturbing trends in Korea and I said that Black Bean Tea was a disturbing trend. Then I went on to expound on the ghastliness of corn tea (it tastes like soggy popcorn!) and that this will lead Korea to make teas from everything: from flower teas, bundaeggi tea, water tea, book-tea, and even pen-tea.

I don't know what pen tea is, but I agree that this disturbing trend of making "teas" out of roasted vegetables must be stopped. Who's with me?

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Katharine Shilcutt