Borim backmocha or borimcha is a “tteokcha” (a “lump tea”) made from borimcha leaves. To make this tea, young tealeaves should be steamed and dried several times, then crushed into a powder. The leaves are mixed with safflower (紅花 – a biennial flower used for medicine, red ink, and oil) and water to create a dough which is molded into small, flat, round “tteok” (rice cake) shaped dumplings, similar in shape to Chinese Pu-erh tea. The dumplings are lightly roasted over a fire and then added to hot water. The tea may be mixed with ginger and a sweetener for flavor. Borimcha is known for its good taste and as a digestive aid. The Jangheung area on the southern coast of South Korea is famous for this tea.
Borim backmocha differs from doncha and choicha (other types of tea) because it is made from young tealeaves harvested in Jeollanam-do before April 20 of the lunar calendar (Wujeon season). Borimcha was created by Jeong Yak-yong (a scholar and philosopher of the Joseon Dynasty) and Choi Sun-sa at the Borimsa temple in Jangheung, Jeollanam-do, South Korea. Borimcha is made from using rice cake molds to prepare the tea known as borim backmocha. In 1830, when Choi Sun-sa, a priest known as the best tea producer of the late Joseon Dynasty, went to the capital to get a Sarira Stupa of his master, he brought borim backmocha as a gift.
After tasting Borimcha in 1872, scholars Lee Yu-won and Gokyeong Seon-sa said, “It is the best tea in the country.” When describing the preparation process and quality of the tea, the scholars said, “Tea Master Jeong Yak-yong taught monks at the Borimsa temple the ‘Gugeong gupo’ method of ‘nine times steaming and nine times drying.’ The best tea is that harvested before Goku (April 20, one of 24 seasonal divisions according to the lunar calendar). This tea may be known called as ‘Ujeon tea’ (tea made with leaves harvested five days before Goku in early spring)." The described process of making borimcha varies according to the source, however it is certain that the tea was quite famous in the latter half of the 19th century. According to the diary of Kim Yun-sik (“Hum-cheong-sa”), a philosopher at the end of the Joseon Dynasty, he brought borimcha with him when he visited to China in 1882.
The tea is traditionally produced in the area of the Borim-sa Buddhist temple, near Mt. Gaji. Today, several tea producers in Jangheung-gun, Jeollanam-do produce small quantities of borimcha. However, it is not sold in any market, and the few producers who continue to produce this tea do so for the purpose of restoration. Borim backmocha was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, due to its complicated manufacturing and preparation processes it gave way to green tea during the Japanese colonial period.