Korea Trip 2018: The Tale of the Two Ginsengs


It was the best of times… it was the worst of times…

Well, not quite the best of times but a good one nonetheless. During the first day of a four-day tour I had with HanaTour, where I was on a Eastern tour of South Korea, the first stop was at a ginseng tea/coffee shop called Mieene Coffee – located in a small shopping area – for a short break.


The tour guide highly recommended this coffee shop, which was manned by a young woman on this particular morning. She didn’t seem to understand – or speak – English, so the guide was the one who spoke to her.

According to the tour guide, this shop was opened within the last couple of years and the owner was the woman’s brother.


I had never tried “Ginseng and Juice” (or, ginseng juice) before, so I ordered a cup.


It wasn’t as bitter as I thought it would be. There was some honey available for customers, but I didn’t need any.


The worst of times – or one of them anyway – came in the second week of my stay in Korea. I was part of a half-day tour with another company, and at the end of the tour we came to a high-end ginseng store, which was located in an office tower.

There were many photo opportunities on the ground floor in the lobby area…

…until we were summoned to enter the elevator.

I initially had no idea what this part of the tour was – as it wasn’t on the itinerary. So, we entered the elevator and were guided to the second or third floor – I can’t remember – and a Filipino woman started explaining ginseng information to us.

I took a picture of a display (the red sign below) but she told me, “No video or photos, sir.” Well, I guess I didn’t know.


As we all walked in – this was some kind of hallway with charts and stats and info and history about Korean ginseng on the walls – she was explaining different facts about Korean ginseng. She tried to be funny but I really didn’t think her jokes were that good. I guess I found her to be “corporate,” so to speak. Hey, that’s her job, so good for her.

Anyway, we soon came into a room which was essentially a store room, with all kinds of ginseng products in display cases. There was a group of us, and the Filipino woman asked us all to come close as she continued explaining the benefits of Korean ginseng.

I was standing near the counter… and as soon as the presentation was over, one female sales rep began doing her sales pitch on me (and others on some of the other members of the tour group).

I found her to be pushy. She kept going on and on, trying to make me buy something. I didn’t appreciate it. Finally, I thanked her (out of courtesy, of course) and walked away from the counter to join two other members of the tour group, both of whom were not badgered by any of the salespeople as they were smart enough to stand away from the counter.

I’m simply not a fan of this sort of tactic by the salesperson; it’s like she didn’t care about you as a person but she looked only at you like you were going to make her extra commissions.

So, the story of two ginsengs… one positive, one not so positive…