Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Making Green Tea the Traditional Korean Way- Part One: Picking Tea

One took part in the making of green tea on May third and forth in Hadong, an area known for its rich history in making tea. The following is a description of how green tea is made in Korea.

In the valley of the Jiri Mountians just outside Hadong, old ladies, geared up in sun visors and long sleeve shirts, mesh bags hang ready at their side with straps draped around their shoulders, carrying bright plastic strainers, scatter amongst the wild tea bushes. These ladies smile, chant, and hum traditional verses as they work early in the morning sun. Verses of tea, verses always used to cheer the soul when toiling in the fields. They happily pluck only the young, bright green, top shoots from the bush.

In one efficiently smooth motion the new leaves depart from their home. Usually, the needle-like top leaf is picked along with one newly revealed brother or sister leaf and another partly unfurrowed sibling leaf. This is done as to not disrupt the harmony, the bond between siblings.

After a sufficient amount of these leaves have been gathered in this way, the ladies pool their leaves into one large bag and they are taken off to be dried and hand processed as they depart from the calm of the mountain valley.

The Korean Saint of Tea, Cho Ui, wrote the following about tea picking in his book, Dashinjeon, (The Way of Tea, or The Story of the Tea God),

Regarding the picking of leaves, timing is important. If it is too early, the fragrance of the tea will be imperfect and if it is too late, the spirit of the tea will disperse... The best leaves are the ones with a purple tint, wrinkled leaves are second, and rounded curling leaves are the next best. Leaves that shine but resemble the leaves of dwarf bamboo are the worst. It is best to pick leaves that are soaked in the early morning dew from a cloudless night, leaves picked in the sunshine of midday are the next best. Picking leaves when it is cloudy or rainy should be avoided. The tea trees in the mountain valleys are the best, tea trees that grow in bamboo forests are second best, next are tea trees which grow in rocky fields, and tea trees that grow in yellow sand is preferred after that.
Paraphrased from a Translation of Cha Shin Jeon in The Book of Korean Tea by Yang-Seok Yoo with changes



hster said...

Dear Matt,

Thank you for sharing the lovely photo with tea-picking ajumma with a visor. Actually I am a huuge fan of ajummas because they are so no-nonsense.

By any chance did you have a meal around the tea plantation? I'm really curious if they had incorporated any of the tea leaves into the cuisine.


Matt said...


"ajummas are so no no-nonsense" hahaha... so true

It is hard work making green tea the traditional way so we had little time for extravagant meals. We did put some fresh green tea leaves into our ramen when making tea in Hadong.

See here:

In the Boseong tea growing region, had delicious pork BBQ where the pigs were fed green tea. There was also a green tea related side dish as well.

See here:

Thanks for stopping by,