Doncha (돈차/money tea), also as cheongtae-jeon (청태전/靑苔錢/green moss coin) is a variety of fermented tea produced mainly in South Korea’s South Jeolla province, particularly in Jangheung county.
This tea, like borim-cha was developed in the style of producing bricks of fermented tea introduced from China. Some of the first evidence of doncha is traced to the Unified Silla period (668-935 CE). The art of making fermented or post-fermented tea in brick form declined during the colonial period in Korea, where loose leaf green tea became the more common and popular tea preparation method. Today the tea is only produced and sold in small quantities as a specialty item and is not sold in stores.
Doncha is prepared from third pluck leaves (junjak grade, harvested during soman which occurs on May 20th). Wild leaves are generally the leaf of choice. The leaves are then steamed 12 hours after picking in a traditional cauldron. They are then pounded in a large oak mortar or millstone. The leaves are shaped into round cakes and sun-dried. When they are dried, a hole is made in the middle of each cake, which gives them the appearance of traditional East Asian coins that once featured a hole in the center. The bricks are then allowed to ferment for six months at the least to upwards of twenty years.
The cakes are usually roasted on both sides before being prepared for drinking. This kills off any bacteria and also enhances the tea’s flavor, aroma, and character. Doncha is additionally considered a traditional Korean medicinal tea and is believed to assist with stomach and digestion problems and fever, improve eyesight and help to detox the body.