In 2012, the first KCON USA — a Korean Wave festival — was held as a one-day event at SoCal’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. It has since grown to last five days with programs in both New York City and Los Angeles.
This year, KCON LA’s exhibitors, including entities like Toyota and Nabisco’s Chips Ahoy, promoted their products and services at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Uptempo K-pop music (Korea popular music) in Korean blasted the spacious exhibition hall. Local performance groups covering high-difficulty dances competed on stage. K-beauty (Korean beauty products) practitioners demonstrated makeup techniques. Workshops ranged from informational “How To Start Your Own YouTube Channel” to intriguing “Behind the Scenes of Online K-Pop Communities.”
While waiting in line to get free French fries courtesy of McDonald’s food truck, one parent told me K-pop lyrics well-translated in English, were never offensive; and famous personalities in that entertainment industry were respectful to all. In the evening I attended one of the two concerts held at STAPLES Center, mainly to see a thirteen-member group named SEVENTEEN (SVT) perform their self-composed and produced music. The members also choreograph all of their dances and have since their teenage years.
It did not take me long to traverse the entire expo floor. I was disappointed to find only one tea-related booth, namely Kung Fu Tea, whose banner reads, “America’s Largest Made To Order Tea Brand.” Kung Fu Tea, yet another bubble tea specialist, was founded in the U.S. and has expanded its operation to Taiwan – the birthplace of bubble tea.
This KCON experience prompted me to search for local Korean tea shops; which led to my visit to the newly-opened Nadri Korean Tea House in Central LA’s Koreatown! Instead of commonplace tea-leaf teas, I savored herbal ssanghwa tea (also known as ssanghwa tang or double harmony tea) prepared with familiar ingredients such as ginger, pine nuts, and jujube, and much-less-familiar white peony, angelica root, and rehmannia root. Considered medicinal, ssanghwa tea can be consumed regularly to alleviate fatigue, inflammation, etc. This tea was not served with an infuser, so I assumed the solid ingredients could be eaten – which I did. (Maybe I shouldn’t have?)
Traditional music at Nadri was kept at an ultra-soothing level; because of which, all patrons toned down and chilled out to preserve and relish the tranquility. The gregarious proprietress recommended that I sit facing the traditional tearoom decorated with hanbok and janggu. Nadri’s location away from the center of bustling K-town is another plus. For an hour I drank my ssanghwa tea and ate rice cake and sausage, then ordered sikhye — a rice dessert drink — to go. I would have stayed longer but time did not permit that day.
I am not sure if I will attend KCON 2020. For sure I will re-visit Nadri the next time I am in K-town.
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