A Traditional Tea House in Insadong: 신옛찻집

Audrey-at-a-traditional-tea-house-in-Insadong

Buried down one of the many alleys that make up the back streets of Insadong is a quaint little tea house that appears almost forgotten. Its exterior is not particularly impressive, nor does it do much to advertise itself; it’s not until you are standing in front of the entrance that you notice the small wooden sign that reads  “신옛찻집” – Shin Old Tea House.

shin-old-tea-house-insadong-신옛찻집

I pull the door open and a bell alerts the shop owner that two customers have arrived. The sweet ajumma smiles at us, her only guests on this chilly afternoon, and invites us to take off our shoes. We leave them on the concrete ground and step up unto the creaky wooden floors.

shin-old-tea-house-insadong-신옛찻집

Inside it is a warm repose from Seoul’s wintry streets.

We plop ourselves down on bright silk pillows in front of a rustic table that sits just a few inches off the ground. My eyes wander in all directions: colourful tapestries, ceramic teapots, a goldfish swimming in a tank, a large wooden chest, hanging lamps, beaded space dividers, a quirky frog sculpture, and more pillows and more knick-knacks.

Between the dim lighting and the heated floors, it’s difficult not to sink back into the cozy space.

interior-design-tea-house

While I’m still gazing at my surroundings and making mental notes of wallpaper designs and pillow patterns, the ajumma returns with a menu.

Ice teas and hot teas, citrous and sweet – each item listed sounds more enticing than the next.

drinking-ginger-tea

I order the plum tea off the menu, and Sam opts for the ginger tea.

Our sweet beverages are accompanied by sticky rice cakes and puffed rice. I haven’t enjoyed a single rice cake I’ve tried over the course of my year in Korea, but somehow paired with my sweet plum tea the combination is just right.

sticky-rice-cakes-puffed-rice-cakes

The ambiance is so serene that I find myself whispering and trying to laugh quietly even though no one is listening to us and there is no one to disrupt.

This is our second last weekend in Seoul and it feels nice to be doing something traditional yet low-key. Sipping on our teas we reminisce about the past few months together, while plotting the adventures that await us in Malaysia in just a week’s time. This little tea house is the perfect place to end our time in Korea.

Shin-Old-Tea-House-Insadong

Just a street away Insadong’s main strip is buzzing with activity, but seated in this cozy little tea house I feel like I am miles away.

Sometimes a neighbourhood’s best kept secret lies not too far off the trodden path.

Join the Conversation

23 Comments

  1. says: Sofie

    Looks like a cozy place indeed!
    I love a good cup of tea. It always soothes me, somehow. Haven’t had the chance to go to a traditional (here’s the word) tea house yet, but it’s definitely on the bucket list!

    1. says: Audrey

      Aw, that’s a shame! But it gives you a great reason to come back to the city. 😉 I also wish I’d found it sooner – it’s the kind of place that is worth revisiting.

  2. says: Nico

    Looks like a great place to spend a few hours relaxing. At the moment I’m spending my afternoons going theoguh he different coffees of Indonesia, instead of teas. If I ever get around to visiting Korea I could happily do the reverse.

    Nico recently posted The restaurant where Big Gay Al meets Alice in Wonderland

  3. says: Ceri

    Tea houses are just my absolute dream places to go to. This places looks so magical – I can’t blame you for wanting to whisper. You set the scene so perfectly. <3

  4. says: TammyOnTheMove

    I would love to go to a proper tea house. I went to one in China once, but it was with a tour group and everythign was so fake and touristy. And of course in the end they asked us to buy some tea. Can’t wait to read about your adventures in Malaysia. I love that country!

  5. says: Katya

    Hi Audrey! Thank you very much for your blog and vlog! I’m planning a trip to Seoul now and your posts really help and give me new ideas on how to spend my time in Korea. If you’ll ever by any chance come to Moscow maybe I could repay you with some ideas too :))

  6. says: Andrew Wong

    Hey, Audrey!
    Appreciate this article on Shin Old Tea House. Like your style of casual and leisure writing.
    Reminds me of the travelogue articles featured in National Geographic magazines. Absorbing descriptive essays with just enough relevant photos.
    A picture may speak a thousand words. But still written words are vital and necessary to present the wonderful travel experience.
    Happy travelling!

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *