Discontinued ColumnsCover Story--Special Report
Takju, Korean Tragedy or Tradition?A deeper look behind the bottle
Yang Jong-heun  |  magichiba@yonsei.ac.kr
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승인 2010.05.24  11:49:24
트위터 페이스북 구글 카카오스토리


DO YOU know how much work and effort is put into each bottle?



Finding our tradition
   The drinking culture of students these days is a disorienting disaster. Reckless drinking has become the norm. What students fail to realize is that each bottle of an alcoholic beverage takes much effort and time to make. Among the most time-intensive is takju*. Takju is a traditional alcoholic beverage of Korea. It is usually made with a key grain (rice, wheat, barley, etc.) mixed with yeast to allow fermentation. A variety of drinks can be created by changing the key grain.

takju*: derived from the word tak which means murky and ju which means drink

Selecting the grain
   Making takju begins with the selection of the finest grain. Only with the finest grain can the finest quality drink be created. One of the most famous takju is makgeolli. It is made using rice as the key grain.

Making the makgeolli
   Let us take a look into the process of making makgeolli. First the rice is cooked. Then yeast is also cooked and dried. It is then ground up to be added to the cooked grain. Water is also added. The mixture is left to ferment. During the fermenting process, it is carefully monitored for several days. This process is essential for allowing the right flavor to mature in the drink. If the fermenting period is too short, the drink will have no flavor. It has to be fermented just long enough to produce the proper flavor of makgeolli. If left for a bit longer, the mixture will become chungju* instead of makgeolli. This shows how delicate the process of making makgeolli actually is.

chungju*: derived from the word chung which means clear and ju which means drink


   During the process of fermentation, bubbles appear. The bubbles seem to show makgeolli’s feeling of anticipation as it waits to bring joy to its drinker. When the drink is ready, it is quickly bottled to retain its taste. This drink of the past remains today, but it is a pity that the traditional ways and ideals of enjoying the drink may have been forgotten in the present.


   Drinking in the past was for more than just pleasure. There was a sense of romanticism to it. It was an intimate interaction with other people. To them, takju was more like a gourmet cuisine than just a drink. It was also viewed as a sort of a potion for good health. Thus the term yakju* was coined.

yakju*: derived from the term yak which means medicine and ju which is drink


   It was common, both in the past and today, for takju to be enjoyed with anju*. Delicious food and fabulous drinks are always appealing to look at. Takju is visually beautiful. With various colors, it is truly a treat to the eyes. However, this is the least of its merits. More important are the multiple tastes it offers. From sweet to sour, bitter to creamy, our ancestors truly created a marvel. The wonderful tradition passed on to us from the past should not be forgotten. So cheers to great food and this great drink, takju!

anju*: food served to complement alcoholic beverages.


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