Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's What's Inside That Counts: 2007 Premium Jookro Ujeon Hwagae Valley Green Tea

Like at least 80% of the tea one consumes, this tea was a gift. It is somewhat common for one to receive last years green tea from tea shops and dealers as they are usually not marketable when the new years tea is released. One always reverently and gratefully accepts these gifts and enjoys them to their fullest.

Korea, more than any other tea nation, highly values the box in which tea comes. It often influences the consumer when purchasing green tea as the options sometimes seem endless. One wise tea master once said that most Koreans care more about the box than the tea housed inside it. With that said, generally the more intricate the box, the higher grade the tea inside.

This tea has one of the most elaborate packages that one has come across. After shedding the layers of beautiful packaging, three small bags of tea are revealed. One is chosen and opened. The sweet, grassy, grainy, roasted smell of these leaves fill the air. These leaves are excessively small. And so they should be, only plucked from the bush before April 6th , these leaves come from the first growth from the few bushes that can flourish under the cool cover of early spring.
The tea is prepared in the mindful slow motion of the Korean tea ceremony with water that is allowed to sit and cool until its hardly considered hot. The millisecond this water hits these small leaves the mystery of tea, water, and humanity commences.

The result is a liquor that is sweet, with roasted subtleties, barely spicy, little pine wood, nicely salty almost like seaweed. This tea has a light watery airiness to it. It slides off the tongue pooling in the back of the throat and on the breath, its lightness and lack of astringency differentiates it from other Korean teas.

With more infusions the water temperature slowly increases, as does the steeping time. Such light astringency comes to balance the flavours of sweet, salty, bitter, spicy, sour, and tart. The taste is soft, the taste is good. The colour shinning out of the small ceramic cup is bright, pale, and pure.

This tea is strung along, never even developing the slightest edge, with flavours that maintain harmony and peace, not one element out doing the next for more than one infusion. Its calming gentle liquor is reminiscent of the energy it emits.

The chaqi is light and cool, but mostly subtle. Its path is hardly noticed, moving like the softest of spring breezes that carry neither coolness nor warmth, but its happy effect is undeniable.

This tea is truly a gift.


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