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A Korean tea ceremony in Auroville

Goyo, a Korean restaurant started by resident Aurovillian Won ja, hosts two tea ceremonies every week

A Korean tea ceremony with the lotus flower.
A Korean tea ceremony with the lotus flower. (courtesy the tea expert mint)

Trust Auroville to offer something unusual and interesting, and a reminder to live more mindfully. Feeling the urge to recentre this week, I made my way there for a very special morning, a tea ceremony with Mint and Won ja at Goyo. Goyo, a Korean restaurant started by resident Aurovillian Won ja, is open for a unique vegan meal, offering a silent lunch three times a week—a way to practise mindfulness and eat consciously, focusing on the food. And on Wednesdays, it plays host to two Korean tea ceremonies led by Mint, an architect and Aurovillian.

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Goyo is located on the ground floor of Luminosity, a residential section of this township, amidst greenery. Mint and Won ja were waiting when I reached. The room opens on both ends into a garden, creating a wonderfully breezy and well-lit space with a long wooden table that can seat around 10-12. The room exudes a sense of calm. The word that comes to mind is harmony. Everything in the room seems to have been chosen for a reason. Wildflowers in little vases, beautiful calligraphy on the wall, books, artefacts… and the tea tray waiting, with a kettle on the ready.

Korean tea has been influenced largely by the Chinese, although it’s connected to India too by Buddhism, with monasteries a focal point for the origin of its tea culture.

I am happy to see the gong fu tray and gaiwan. Mint has chosen a Korean yellow tea, a Korean green tea, and an 18-year-old pu-erh. We start with a minute of silence, with a singing bowl signalling the start and end. Mint uses a Korean side handle kyusu teapot and we spend long minutes sharing our preference for this style of pots and why they feel so right in our hands, with Won ja urging Mint to learn to make one herself. This is, after all, Auroville; everyone is hands-on. The glazed coasters on the table have been made by Won ja. It’s all part of the tea experience, to immerse oneself in its more sensorial aspects, not ignoring the pots and cups.

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It’s the first time I am trying yellow tea, and I hope it’s a tea I get to have more. A light yellow liquor, smooth in texture, somewhere between a green and white tea and very pleasant to drink. It’s processed like green tea but goes through light oxidation, which technically classifies it as an oolong. Mint chooses a spring Korean green tea, called sejak, which is light but flavourful, with absolutely no bitterness. We sipped on it, listening to Won ja talking about the time she learnt to make green tea at a monastery in Korea. The pu-erh is the pièce de résistance, dark, intense and warming, a personal favourite for Mint, a fitting end to a companionable hour with three teas and dry fruits for snacks.

If you are visiting Puducherry or Auroville, I highly recommend it. To book, WhatsApp 9489904112. Sessions are on Wednesdays, at 10am and 3pm.

Tea Nanny is a fortnightly series steeped in the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry. She posts @AravindaAnanth1 on Twitter.

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