A Korean Tea Experience

I first saw a full Korean Tea Ceremony (called Darye) this past fall—in China at the Ten Fu Tea University, and was entranced with the beauty and graciousness exhibited.   It is truly a treat to watch.

Most people have heard of the Japanese Tea Ceremony and quite a few of us are familiar with the Chinese Gong Fu Ceremony, but the Korean Tea Ceremony is unique in its display of traditional full-length Korean gowns (hanbok), teapots and ritual movements.  Few people have ever tried Korean teas—many of which are herbal;  their green teas (Nok cha), however are the real stars–flavorful, smooth and delicious.

As part of my studies with Specialty Tea Institute we were introduced to Korean green teas and the country’s tea production history.  What we learned is that Korea has a long tea producing history—almost 2,000 years, but because of foreign invasions, religious influences, and changing rulers, their tea culture has not had the benefit of strong continuity over the centuries.  Korea’s modern day tea production has been growing strongly since the end of World War ll and the teas are starting to become more familiar with fine tea connoisseurs.

The grades of Korean Teas include Ujeon Cha (first grade tea from first plucking); Saejak Cha (second grade tea from second plucking); Joongjak Cha (third grade tea from the third plucking); and Daejak Cha (fourth grade tea from the fourth plucking.  The processing may include either pan-firing or steaming the leaves to deactivate the enzyme that causes oxidation (which defines green tea).  There are many subtle steps in making Korean green tea—some of which are very similar to those for Chinese and Japanese teas.

Relative to Chinese and Japanese green teas, Korean teas are expensive and not as easy to find.  South Korea consumes most of the green tea it produces—exporting very little and until production increases substantially, the tea will remain expensive.   I haven’t started carrying Korean green tea yet, but plan to in the near future—primarily because of the very favorable feedback I get in my green teas class as participants taste and compare them to other green teas.

On April 4th Experience Tea Studio will host a Korean tea Ceremony to be performed by volunteers from the Asia Pacific Cultural Center.   We plan to have tea and traditional Korean tea snacks for attendees and the whole experience should be a real treat for kids, teens and adults.