Insadong, a quiet corner of Seoul perhaps best known for its small art galleries, is full of such back-alley teahouses. Their décor is often as odd as their names, and they offer more teas than you can shake a stuffed carp at. Try The New Old Teashop, which boasts uncaged birds, an oversized chameleon, and a monkey that likes rice crackers. My personal favorite is the Moon Bird Does Not Only Think of the Moon Teashop, where your infusion comes with complimentary yakgwa, traditional honey cakes.
Insadong has been a retreat of artists and writers since the days of the Korean monarchy. With the rapid development of Seoul, however, many of its traditional structures came under threat. Over the past few decades, old-style Korean homes called hanok—open courtyards surrounded by living quarters—were systematically demolished to make way for more modern buildings. The quiet, meandering roads became scarred with constant construction. In an effort to halt Insadong's slow death, Seoul made it an historic district in 1994. Today, Koreans and foreigners alike come for tea and a browse through the studios and shops.
At the Golden Scales, the restroom door is emblazoned with the Korean characters for The Room Where Your Worries Vanish. I find myself hoping it isn't a mix of five odors.