Sunday, June 1, 2008

2008 Nok Ya Won Ujeon Handong Green Tea

Mr. Kim from Nok Ya Won gave one an invitation to the serene Jiri Mountains that surround the quaint city of Handong. In these mountains one picked, heat treated, rolled, and dried the wild tea that cover the scenic mountains. This tea is close to ones heart because it came from one. It is the labour of love.

So the tasting of this tea was shared with family not seen in a long time, outdoors amongst the new green spring growth of a Canadian garden. The following notes come from these sessions.
The newly opened foil packing reveals a wonderful odour that overpowers the ambient fragrance of newly potted perennials and freshly spread potting soil. The scent is rich, sweet, full, with evergreen and grape primed in ones mind. The complex odour of tea makes way for the dry leaves which are carefully coxed out of the foil pack with a polished stainless steel J.A. Hanckles tea spoon. The leaves reveal a deep black-green with light green highlights and a soft white coating- a nice looking dry leaf. These leaves tumble from the spoon into the shallows of the teapot.

The water that was left cooling in the cooling bowl is now slowly and mindfully poured onto the leaves. The sound of water echoing from the tea pot as water carefully fills the pot alerts ones mind to the reaction taking place when making tea, the reaction between tea, humanity, and water. The lukewarm water is left on the leaves for a short time before all of the newly concocted liquor is poured just as mindfully back into the cooling bowl before immediately being courteously poured into awaiting cups.

As cups touch patient lips, tea pours forth, the true nature of tea unfurrows in the mouth, down the throat, and throughout ones body and soul. This tea initially displays a light, sweet, roasted nut taste with undertones of wood, this is a very nutty tea a peanut buttery tea. The first infusion is soft, gentle and watery on the tongue. As the tea fills the mouth it triggers some sweet taste receptors. Then as it makes its way down the throat and into the stomach a slight silky astringency covers ones mouth.

We drink casually and enjoy the morning calm, the puffy cotton ball clouds, and the bright blue sky above. Later infusions allow for stronger elements of the tea to emerge, the mouthfeel is the most pronounced as the silky astringency in the first infusions turn into a fond dry tightness felt on the upper sides of the tongue. Tones of grape and sharp creamery butter are faintly identified in the brew that is overpoweringly nutty. The rough natural character of this wild tea can be felt in the later infusions. Perhaps in this way it mirrors and captures the hard work that went into producing this tea.

With a nutty aftertaste on our breath, we go through pot after pot of this tea enjoying the company of each other and of the robins that sing joyfully chirping and dancing about on the grass, and the pair of doves that coo while nesting in the evergreen in the corner of the yard. This tea holds its own through many infusions. And so we drink into mid morning, discussing the stamina and delicious profile of this tea. Someone mentions that the subtle elements of grape and butter are lost in the last infusions to the sweet nutty taste that characterizes this tea. Someone also mentions that this tea is quite different than last years tea of the same maker (see post), much better.

As everyone slowly begins to leave, one contently cleans the cups with the hot water of the kettle and puts the Kim Jeong Pill buncheong tea set back on the serving tray. One reflects on the calming and alerting chaqi- the perfect green for meditation or just enjoying the stillness of morning just as we did. The energy that went into producing and preparing this tea shows in its final product, smiles on all those who shared in this tea.


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