Drinks in South Korea

Information on tea, non-alcoholic drinks and traditional wines and beers commonly found throughout South Korea...

Tea and other non-alcoholic drinks

Tea is very popular in South Korea and has a history stretching back over 2000 years. As in much of Asia, ginseng tea is widely drunk, as well as Korean green tea.

Green tea is traditionally drunk very strong. There are four types of Korean green tea based on when the leaves are picked:

  • Dae-jak
  • Jung-jak
  • Se-jal
  • U-jeon

Barley tea is also widely drunk in South Korea; it has a malty flavour and can be drunk either cold or hot. Water or barley tea is commonly drunk with a meal.

There are also many medicinal herb and fruit based teas, such as quince or plum tea. Many are made by boiling dried flowers or leaves for between three and five minutes. Teas made from fruits, roots or barks are brewed for longer, up to 30 minutes depending on whether the ingredients are powdered or whole.

Other popular drinks include the malted rice drink shik-hye. It is common to have a glass of shik-hye at the end of a meal and it can be drunk hot or cold.

  • For more information about South Korean tea: Click here

Alcoholic drinks of South Korea

Drinking is a big part of South Korean culture and being seen drunk is not unusual, particularly for a man. Korean soju is the most popular alcoholic drink in the country. It was traditionally made from rice, but can also be distilled from sweet potatoes, which is cheaper. It is a sweet drink that has traditionally been drunk neat, although it is sometimes mixed with beer and soft drinks. It is a strong drink with a typical bottle of soju having an alcohol content of 25 percent, though some soju can be as strong as 40 percent.

Other traditional alcoholic drinks are rice based and include makgeolli and dong ju. Makgeolli is unique to Korea and is made by mixing steamed rice and barley, or wheat, with water and a fermentation culture. It has an opaque milky colour once it has fermented and a low alcohol content. It should be well shaken or stirred before drinking. Alcoholic drinks are usually served with side dishes such as dry seaweed, nuts or squid.

South Korea produces its own beer as imported brands are very expensive. It is not well known outside of the country, as it is not considered as good as beer from other countries. There are three main brands: OB, Hite and Cass. They are all cheap and readily available.

  • For more information about traditional liquors and wines in South Korea: Click here