Korean Lemon Tea

Sometimes, friendship arrives in the form of serendipity. And sometimes, that serendipity tastes of lemon.

A close up of a woman's hands slicing a lemon.

Long-time readers of this blog may recall that I spent a big chunk of time exchanging conversation in English for learning piano. I did a shit job of learning or retaining piano, I have to be honest. I know that was frustrating for Grace. But I also know we had a great time baking and eating and celebrating together.

It was a great way to make a friend, and swap cultural conversations. And generally be happy. And, back in those days, make new recipes for the challenge.

I miss Grace. And I never did learn how to make those ribs. A damn shame, because they were a delight. I wonder how she’s doing, as we’ve lost touch1. I think of her often, but a lot more recently.

Because sometimes life repeats itself a little.

Imagine my surprise when, less than three months into moving to Portland, I encounter another lovely Korean woman who is looking for conversational exchange to help with English, and enjoys food. I am very lucky.

So Young Jo and I have been hanging out once a week for about the past month. Our second visit, after we’d met and decided to try to cook together, she came over and we made Meatball Cookies and Lemon Tea.

It’s simple to make and a joy to drink. I’m going to keep this in the kitchen all winter long.


6 Large Lemons

Hot water

Baking soda


Scrub with a small amount of baking soda, then rinse the lemons in the hot water. You use every part of the lemon but the seeds, so you want to make sure it’s clean. Once the lemons are all clean, slice each very thinly and pick out all the seeds.

Grab a big bowl and put a layer of lemon slices in the bottom. Spoon a big spoonful of sugar over each slice, then layer another round of lemon slices on top. Repeat until you are out of lemon slices, ending with sugar on top. Allow this bowl to sit at room temperature for half an hour, then once the lemons have put off a lot of their juice, move the lemon slices to a jar or other air-tight container, and spoon the juice over the top. Allow that container to sit out for a day or two, then refrigerate.

Serve by placing one or two of the lemon slices in a mug, then pouring about 1 part lemon/sugar juice to 3 parts near-boiling water, over the top. Stir and sip.

A wide-mouth quart canning jar next to a big bowl of macerating lemons.


I plan to keep this in my house for winter. Lemons are, oddly enough, better in winter than in summer, so this makes good use of that bounty. Plus, it’s so tasty and it makes me smile to think of So Young and all the fun we’ve been having. But that said, it showed me a pretty strong hole in my knowledge around food and beverages. And, oddly enough, that hole is around fermentation.

Yep. I manage to be a beer expert and not know enough about fermentation in the slightest.

This is a mild fermentation, and it’s the first one I’ve ever done. It’s tasty and wonderful, but I can’t say I know how safe fermentation experts would say it is; I simply don’t know enough. And, yes, that made me more than a little paranoid about it. I don’t know how reasonable that paranoia was, and I need to fix that hole.

Some of that will come with reading Hands on Home, which I mentioned I own over in one of my previous posts. But I realized it’s time for me to go down to the library and check out The Art of Fermentation to at least get a bit more grounding in safety.

So, all of this to say, you should totally make this tea. But, like me, if you don’t already know what you’re doing (like So Young does), you should probably do some reading first.

I’m going to be doing that reading and hanging out a lot more with So Young. I’ve already learned how to make a rainy day pancake and a New Year’s Eve soup (both of which are killer tasty) in addition to making the cookies with her and a variant on this french toast.

It looks to be another delicious friendship. And I am so grateful.

A close up of a woman's hands, spooning macerated lemons and their juce from a bowl into a wide-mouth quart canning jar.

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1 Writing this post, about how we’d lost touch and how I missed Grace, gave me the push to just drop her a line and say hello. She responded almost right away, and so for anyone else who is wondering, she’s doing very well. We’re emailing back and forth now, and also becoming FaceBook friends. Technology, man. It’s awesome to live in the future.