My blog is all about tea (camellia sinensis). This segment of the tea files will focus on the Jirisan area of Hadong County, South Korea. Whether your a tea aficionado, tea connoisseur, tea enthusiast, or tea novice, I hope to provide you with selective information, stories, and my personal tea trekking adventures, and at times, pictures relating to tea and teaware.
|Posted on September 13, 2014 at 11:05 AM||comments (0)|
During autumn, one can see camellia sinensis (tea) shrubs flowering in semi-wild tea gardens on rocky hillsides or in the wild under bamboo groves when hiking in Jirisan. Usually, when I trek across Hwagae Valley I especially like to photograph not only the tea terrain but also the interesting birds, animals, colorful butterflies, while taking in the clean air.
Here, I came across a bee buzzing about and busily collecting nectar from a camellia sinensis flower. I could smell the distinctly sweet perfumed aroma of flowering camellia sinensis in the air when walking among the many tea shrubs.
The perfumed fragrance emanating from the tea flowers, the vibrant white petals, and the bright yellow stamen of camellia sinensis was to irresistable for this bee to pass up as one can see.
During early fall, I like to collect the nokcha (tea) flowers and make a delicious infusion from them. While the infused liquor from the flower is pale-looking, the taste is herbally sweet and flavorful.
|Posted on July 12, 2014 at 3:40 AM||comments (0)|
In this article of 'The Tea Files', I am going to provide a very brief and humble review about the origin of Korea's Jirisan, Hwagae Valley, nokcha which is also referred to as the 'King's Tea.'
Below is a picture that I took of a neat poster which appears to be one of King Heungduk of the Shilla Kingdom or possbly King Sejong, the inventor of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, pouring himself what may possibly be a cup of Hadong wild green tea.
Jirisan, Hwagae Valley tea seeds originated from the foggy and misty mountains of China. This particular tea plant is a hardy, slow growing camellia sinensis variety. The varietal is called camellia sinensis variety sinensis. It has small, slender tea leaves that can survive under very cold weather conditions recorded to be as as low as -5°C/23°F. This was an important consideration because the camellia sinensis varietal would have to be able to withstand very cold Korean winters. Presumably, Korean winters were much colder in those days.
How did this tea varietal make its way to Korea?
The answer to this question, and by the way, this is a very short answer, I discovered at the Hadong Tea Cultural Museum in Hadong, Hwagae Valley, South Korea.
Hadong is considered to be the 'Holy Land' of tea according to historical records of the Samguk Sagi (The Three Kingdoms.)
In the Samguk Sagi, it has been recorded that Kim Dae Ryeom, a royal envoy during Korea's Shilla Dynasty in 828 AD., was ordered to go to China's Tang Dynasty by royal orders of King Heungduk. His mission was to return to Korea with camellia sinensis tea seeds on behalf of King Heungduk who was the reigning monarch at that time. It is also worth mentioning that at the time it was illegal to take tea seeds out of China because the Chinese allegedly wanted to keep a monoply on their valuable agricultural cash crop.
When Dae ryeom returned from China with the tea seeds, King Heungduk and Dae ryeom mapped out the ideal location to plant those first valuable tea seeds. It was determined that the prime growing location for those tea seeds would be on the southern facing slopes of Jirisan where they could flourish given the geography, nutrient rich soil, pristine rivers and streams, and ideal weather conditions for camellia sinensis to thrive in.
(Pictured below are steps leading to Ssanggye Temple's entrance)
A stone memorial near Ssanggyesa has been erected to mark the original location of the first tea cultivation site in Korea. The exact location is said to have been Unsuri, Hwagae Myeon, Hadong-gun, Gyeongnam Province.
|Posted on May 23, 2014 at 11:50 AM||comments (0)|
Introducing this year's first freshly harvested, organically grown, Jungjak nokcha (green tea). It comes from a 3rd flush tea harvest which was handpicked and processed in early May 2014.
This tasty nokcha comes by way of well known Jirisan tea artisan and third generation tea farmer Cho Yun Seok of Jukro (Jook-ro) Tea Company. By the way, Jukro means 'bamboo dew' and Jukro Tea Company in Hwagae Valley is comparatively speaking a well-known mid-size tea company within Korea.
This pioneering tea family has been passionately growing and making nokcha since 1962 in Jirisan, Hwagae Valley and is known for producing a well-made uniquely tasting 'bamboo dew' green tea.
Currently, Jukro tea products are steadily becoming known to the international community where Mr. Cho's well made tasty tea products and his tireless marketing efforts have resulted in his company's products being exported to a few European countries.
Mr. Cho's passion for making tasty tea using traditional Korean tea processing methods can be experienced in this 2014 freshly harvested Jungjak tea offering. Minimally processed, this tea was vigorously tossed and hand roasted. He has to wear multiple pairs of gloves due to blistering hot temperatures that the iron cauldron reaches when he is roasting the tea leaves.
This freshly harvested well made and tasty organically grown Jungjak leaf nokcha (green tea) is now available!
|Posted on April 28, 2014 at 6:10 PM||comments (0)|
So, what makes Jirisan, Hwagae green tea (nokcha) so special? Tea bushes have been planted on the southern slopes of Jiri Mountain in rocky, mineral rich soil and nourished with the best that mother nature has to offer in an ideal growing environment.
Wild (yasaeng) and semi-wild tea bushes can be seen growing undisturbed on craggy mountain slopes. Fresh mountain air, pure Jiri Mountain runoff water, rolling fog which originates from mountain streams and the Seomjin River carpets Hwagae Valley.
During March and April, one can feel the crisp misty mornings which deposit dew droplets on the surface of awakening tea leaves from their winter dormancy. It's an invigorating feeling for both humans and tea bushes.
Around mid- April, depending on weather conditions, is when the first choicest hand plucked tea buds mark the beginning of the annual spring tea harvest sometime before the first spring rainfall called 'Gogu' by Korean tea farmers. Gogu which is based on the Asian lunar calendar, and occurs around April 20 give or take one week before or after that date. The tea shrubs will usually experience cool mornings followed by sudden and rapid changes in daytime temperatures. It can be 10-15 celsius in the morning, then rise to 18-22 celsius by mid- afternoon. Sunny and breezy afternoons are followed by short intermittent rainfalls which are ideal conditions for growing highly fragrant and tasty bud and leaf tea.
So, the next time you sip Jirisan, Hwagae Valley green tea (nok-cha), if only for a fleeting moment, ponder the ideal conditions of geography, soil, climate, and the tea growers nurturing of the tea bushes which created that simple, but exquisite tasting cup of spring dew called ujeon (woo-jeon).
|Posted on March 20, 2014 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
Let's explore Jirisan, Hwagae Valley together and discover where one can arguably find growing the best nokcha (green tea) in Korea. If I can describe Hwagae Myeon located in Gyeongnam Province, Hadong County, South Korea in one word it is: Rural.
Things haven't change much here in the past 20 years. Yet, when talking to the village people here there seems to have been a noticeable transformation. However, it has to do with a small influx of people, mainly retirees from the major metropolitan cities in Korea, that have built homes here or have dreamed about building vacation homes in Hwagae Myeon.
A visitor coming to Hwagae would at best describe it as an remote village located in a picturesque landscape. What it offers though is an environment that is clean, devoid of noise and air pollution from manufacturing or industrial plants.
Aside from agriculture, the major non-industrial polluting industry in Hwagae is tourism. A slower pace of life, fresh mountain air, and clear bubbly mountain water that flows down from the Jiri Mountain range and drains into the meandering Seomjin River which translates into "toad ferry" river.
Hwagae Myeon in Hadong County has been designated a "cittaslow" village along with its next door neighbor Agyang Myeon. From Italian, Cittaslow translates into "slow city. According to Cittaslow.org, "it is a cultural movement which was founded in 1999 to promote improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace."The pace of Hwagae is similar to that of a snail. Like a snail that moves slow and steady, so goes Hwagae Myeon.
The only time that there is an noticeable increase in movement is during the Spring season. Thousands of Koreans and international visitors descend upon this remote village to enjoy Hwagae Myeon's two famous festivals; the annual "Cherry Blossom Festival" and the annual Hadong "Wild Tea Festival." The population then swells from 4,000 to about 12,000+.
Stay tuned for (Part II) coming to you in the near future!