Jiri Mountain Tea

"Sourcing Artisan Nokcha From Jirisan"

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Jirisan Wild Nokcha Tasting!

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 12:15 AM

It was late in the afternoon and I could no longer put off the the tea tasting session with the Jirisan wild tea that I managed to pick in late April of 2012. You can read about my trekking experience on the “Wild Jirisan Tea Trail on my blog of April 22. Soon after plucking the tender flushes, I wanted to delay tasting the nokcha flushes to allow the characteristic taste of wild tea to mature a little and bring out a more complex flavor in the cup. So, I patiently stored them until today. Just picked wild tea flushes, if tasted too soon, can bring about a fresh, crisp, and somewhat aggressive , taste profile.

So here are my tea tasting notes:

I opened my tea stash container to inhale the fragrance of the wild nokcha. At first glance,the tea leaves were small and slightly curly. Dark and light green hues mixed with some fragile whitish-silvertips among them. The aroma brings to mind one of refreshing, deep rich forest and moss.

I carefully sprinkled about 5 grams of nokcha leaf in a hwangteo (made from yellowish-red clay) earthenware teapot for the first infusion.

I poured clean, refreshing mountain water in my tea kettle. Then brought it to a boil and poured the boiling water into an earthenware cooling vessel to cool down for about 10 minutes. Steeping time was a brief 20 seconds at about 65°C for the hardy, but delicate nokcha leaves. Pouring higher than 70 degree celsius water on the wild nokcha would have resulted in unmistakeable astringency.

My first impression was that the tea liquor was pale green with bright clarity. I kept in mind that pale did not necessarily mean weak, and nearly all excellently produced Korean ujeon nokcha have soft and sweet, but pronounced mouth feel at first taste, especially if steeped at lower temperatures. This wild nokcha was a little more complex. The taste was sweet dew and refreshing at first sip followed by deep layers of pleasing green astringency on the palate and back of the throat. I took the lid off of the teapot to peak at the wild and wet tea leaves. They were a pleasing bright green color.

The second steeping was for 30 seconds. This time the tea liquor appeared golden-green and the fragrance was one of roasted chestnuts. The taste was still sweet, but with a richer mouth feel and chestnut taste notes that lingered in the back of the throat with only a tinge of astringency.

The third and fourth infusions, both at 45 second steepings, still had a slightly muted chestnut-like fragrance and taste. The liquor appeared golden green with a clear reflective-like quality similar to the second infusion. The taste was clean with a rich and delicious green flavor and no hint of astringency.

The fifth and sixth steepings were at 60 seconds each. There was now only a subtle fresh green fragrance. The tea liquor now displayed a pale bamboo green color, and at this point the taste characteristics contrasted from the first four steepings. The liquor had a medium mouth feel with a mellowing flavor.

Unfortunately, I had run out of water so this tasting session came to an abrupt end. Nevertheless, it was a memorable finish.

This tasting session was truly a refreshing and invigorating reminder of what that day was like trekking the Jirisan, Hwagae Valley mountainside on a wild tea trail carefully selecting the choicest nokcha flushes in late April.                                                                                                                                       

Live well,                                                                                                                                            

Jirisan Gabriel

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