|Posted on July 12, 2014 at 3:40 AM|
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 v. 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.
Several years later, it was a zen master by the name of Jin Gam, the founder of Ssanggye Temple, who began distributing tea around the local area and the culture of traditional tea (umm..) took root. From a historical and religious standpoint, Ssanggye Temple is reknowned as being one of the most sacred and oldest buddhist temples in Korea.
(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.