Saturday, November 29, 2008

Grandma's Stash: A Sampling of Handmade Korean Semi-Oxidized Tea

With some digestion problems the last few weeks one has been consuming a lot of older puerh and Korean oxidized teas. These teas act to settle the stomach with warm, soothing energy. When you feel a little ill what is more comforting than grandma's homemade remedy?

This tea sample was given to a friend who manages a local tea shop. He said that an old lady had dropped off this sample and that it was likely handmade from Jiri mountain. As one's stomach churns one instinctively reaches for grandma's remedy.

The dry leaves smell of fermented grapes or raisins, a smell that one would expect to come across when making wine not tea. The dry leaf lacks a 'roasted' smell, instead a prominent fruitiness is present. This batch of dry medicinal herb, the Camellia sinensis, displays long black leaves with a few outliers flaunting yellowish or brownish tones.

These leaves are placed in a pot as hot water comes to a boil and then infuses with the leaves. The medicine is prepared.

Unlike most herbal remedies this elixir is not bitter. The taste is almost Keemun and is black in body and flavour with an undertone of fresh greenishness that shows itself only to the keen observer. This tea is filled with fruity, mostly raison, sometimes orange, top notes that linger in the nose. The mouthfeel is juicy and watery at first but in later infusions it becomes tart and dry. This tea turns rater fast and looses its essence quite early before the dry tart, almost flavourless, mouthfeel dominates. Underneath all of this, a faint floral taste manages to subtly linger on the breath.

This tea's powerful qi is its high point. It truly energies the soul, the extremities feel warm, the mind and body feel whole. And most importantly, grandma's homemade remedy removed all discomfort. As one's stomach settles, so does one's mind.

Thanks grandma.



Lainie Petersen said...

Exquisite prose and photography. Yes, grandmother's remedies are always best, aren't they?

T.alain said...

Thanks Grandma and Matt for this very peacefull moment...

RTea said...

This sounds like a delicious tea for settling my overfilled, post-Thanksgiving feast stomach.

I'll be stopping by Seoul very briefly on my tea-buying route and would like to pick up some interesting teas that are representative of the variety available there now. Do you have any teashop/teahouse recommendations?


Eileen said...

Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos of your teapots and teabowl. The glorious blooms, what are they called?

Matt said...

Laine Petersen,

Thanks for for your kind words... yes, grandma's remedies are always the best.

T. alain,

Thank you.


Yes, this would be the tea to do it. Actually many good Korean yellow teas could do the trick, especially the ones that are less astringic.

If you go to Seoul you must go to the main market street in Insa Dong. Here you will find that every third store is a tea shop.... taste test untill you find what you're looking for.


These mindful pots by Kim Kyoung Soo always have tea in them. These flowers are a fall variety that bloom late into the chilly Korean autumn. These ones somehow managed to survive temperatures that hovered around freezing. They were found huddling behind rock and concrete trying to keep warm last week. They are probably the last wild flowers that one will pick this year as the recent frost has wiped out even the hardy chrysanthemum types.


RTea said...

Thanks Matt, I'll spend a day there and I'm sure I'll find something worth sharing with friends!


Hevesi said...

Dear Matt!

We are selling MArukyu Koyamaen, as top tea master in Central Europe. Among other excellent teas we are for want of some high quality korean tea. When you can / want help us, please send me a mail to :

Matt said...


Sent you an email.


Anonymous said...

How are the Tea shops in Daegu? I'm always there on Sundays and they are always closed! I've only looked through the windows.

InSadong, in Seoul, is a waste of time unless you want to buy crap, pay too much, or you're looking for herb teas.

Have you been to KkikDaGeo? (Close to Jogyesa)
I've been visiting them for years, they don't have the largest selection of pots, but what they have is nice, and their taste in teas is impeccable.

They supply CheongSeokGeol green tea, from HwaGyeDong, the only Korean green tea I really find worthwhile drinking. They have GuJeungGuDo NokCha(I might be wrong about that name)hand made by monks in JiriSan. They steam and roast the leaves nine times. It's the only Korean green tea that can match a high quality Chinese green tea. The leaves have a bluish-green tint and smell almost like dried apricot. I've tried it a couple times, but 400,000won a box is a bit out of my range!

Matt said...


One always appreciates an experienced opinion on Korean teas.

Although Insa Dong markets itself to tourist and common people, one has tried some excellent tea there. Most of it is a bit hard to find but there are some nice handmade Jiri mountain teas that one truly enjoyed.

Thank you for the recommendation in Seoul. Next time one is there one will track it down.

It is too bad that the best Korean teas are so expensive. These teas are type that one really appreciates as a gift! If you want the highest quality Korean green tea, you have to dig a little and have some connections but there are some tea out there that would surely challange even the top Chinese greens. This is no different than trying to acquire the best teas in China.

In Daegu most tea shops are closed on Sunday. There is a street just of the Oriental medicine street that has many tea shops. Its less commercial and more traditional than Insa Dong. Some shops are open on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.


Anonymous said...

Hello again,
Those shops by the medicine market are the ones I always seem to miss~

Actually, my favourite green tea is CheongSeokGol SeJak, from HaDong, Jirisan, even compared to the best Chinese ones. w60,000/100g isn't too bad either. Their U Jeon tea is 80,000 but SeJak keeps me happy~

Their is a temple in Jogyesan, a bit west of Jirisan that produces high quality green tea, but I haven't tried it yet. It will make for a nice trip in the spring.

Your blog is impressive, I heard of it from Chris on the MK mailing list. How long have you been learning about tea? I just started becoming truly engrossed over the last couple of years.

My name is Joseph by the way,
my email is
If you come to Seoul, I could recommend my favorite places to enjoy tea^^

Matt said...


As summer slips away into fall, and fall into winter I find myself drinking less green tea and more puerh and oxidized Korean teas. This year one was quite fortunate to receive a lot of Ujeon grade tea as gifts. Either way, one mainly consumed Ujeon green tea that one picked and produced in Hadong this past year.

One has heard murmuring about the tea you speak of made at a Jiri Mountain temple. As you know, spring is the best time to visit.

Thank you for all of your kind words about the blog. Learning about tea has been a gradual thing. One's tea studies have definitely intensified after coming to the realization a few years ago that tea drinking and life living are one and the same.

Perhaps our paths will cross soon over a good conversation and a cup of good tea.