Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2009 Jookro Hwagae Valley Yellow Tea


Jookro is one of the oldest commercial tea companies in Korea and has been producing great wild, hand picked, Hwagae Valley tea since 1962. The Korean name of this tea 'Oo Re Cha' means 'Our Tea' and is a proud statement of confidence and pride for the often overlooked Korean teas which have historically had been influence by its tea superpower neighbours, Japan and China. This tea made using traditional methods, in an area from ansestors of 1000 year old trees, stands in oppostion to those who think that Korean teas are simply, more expensive or inferior Japanese or Chinese tea.
Despite having many small farm and monk-made yellow teas year in and year out, this offering from Jookro is always one of the best. Let's stuff the pot and see what makes this yellow tea so damn good...

The dry leaves, the dry leaves, the dry leaves.

Have you ever smelt better dry leaf smell? Honestly, these purplish-green tinged leaves smell like heaven- nutty and deep chocolate.

When warm water and tea merge it first leaves smooth-juicy, roasted- nutty chocolate tastes. The mouth follows suite with excessive salivation. A tasty undercurrent of sour citrus jazzes things up.

As more water meets leaves the mouthfeel becomes more obvious and starts to cover the mouth in roasted very nutty tones, strong nutty aftertaste, and strong chocolate aroma.

The next infusion brings a soft dry feeling in the mouth, the chocolate flavor is the strongest at this third infusion. One takes time with this infusion, enjoying every sip.

More water, more tea. Nutty tones predominate but a woodiness starts to lie underneath.

In this fifth infusion a spiciness develops. This time the flavour seems more chocolate and less nutty. Although all sessions with this tea are a bit different, they all seem to have one thing in common which is a sort of tug-a-war between nut and chocolate tones. One loves to sit back and let ones tastebuds enjoy the spectacle of this event.

The next few infusions becomes more woody and dry in the mouth. The initial flavours fade under a full dry wood coating. The qi at this point comforts and warms the stomach, a very good, pure, yellow tea feel.
The infusions go on for a while. Light, dry in the mouth- one sips at these flat wood tones and feels cozy and content.

Peace

18 comments:

Trent said...

Matt,

How do you get a hold of all of this Korean tea in Canada? Korean tea is one of the few varieties I have yet to explore, and I'm dying to try some of the more old fashioned yellow teas.

- Trent

Bret said...

I was going to ask the same question, where do you get these teas from? Ive always been curious about them but I never see any for sale anywhere.

meaghan said...

Hi Matt,
I was going to ask the same question as the other commenters...
I haven't had good Korean tea since I came back to Canada a few years ago. Is it possible to order these teas anywhere?
As always, your pics and descriptions are lovely.
I'm happy to see you're enjoying so many wonderful teas, even here in Canada. Best wishes.

Matt said...

This year one received a giant box of Korean teas from a close friend who runs a shop in Korea. Most of the teas were greens and yellows, like this Jookro, that one has been drinking for years- others more obscure smaller productions.

One is not aware of where you can order quality Korean yellow tea here in the west. If any readers know of any place please let us know.

P.S. Meaghan its time to call in all those favours from your 2 years in Korea. ;)

Peace

Trent said...

www.hankooktea.com sells Korean tea and teaware, but your Korean things seem much more interesting.

Matt said...

Trent,

Han Kook does sell Korean tea. Franchia in NYC also used to sell online but can't find it on their homepage now:

http://www.franchia.com/

Personally can't recommend these teas but it will at least give you a bit of a feel for Korean tea. If you are interested.

Peace

Arthur said...

I’m working on importing some Korean green teas and have a Korean producer who will work with me. I’m a tea ware artist in the USA and am also working with some Korean artist friends to import their tea ware. The importing of Korean tea will be to support the tea ware – I am Korean. Those teas should be available in the next few months and could be available now to anyone who wants to order a kilo or more. I won’t be doing much individual sales except with tea ware. But if you would like to order a kilo of green tea, let me know. You can find me through the web site. If you would like to import Korean teas on a more commercial basis, also let me know.
Basically the reasons we can’t find many Korean teas for sale commercially in the West is that the vast majority is consumed in Korea and it is expensive – particularly the really good teas. Teas from other countries are widely known so that is what most tea people buy. There are some really great green teas in Korea as well as some yellow and a little red. I have hand-processed green tea in Korea and don’t want to do it of a living. The experience is great and you come to appreciate tea on a whole different level but it is truly a labor of love. It is easy to see why Korean tea can be expensive. Go to my web site www.TeaTourKorea.com to see a slide show showing the process. I would love to have a few of you on the tour. I would hate for this tour not to make so tell your tea friends. In any case, the site will be a place to provide some information on Korean tea. My motivation for the tour, the web site and even for importing Korean tea and tea ware is simply to promote Korea.
Francia claims to have wild tea from “Mt Jilee”. I assume they mean Mt. Jirisan where there is wild tea from some very old bushes. But most of the tea produced on Jirisan is plantation tea. Then again it is possible to find wild tea behind many temples in Korea’s tea growing belt.

Matt said...

Arthur,

There seems to be a bit of a 'confusion' about what classifies as wild tea in Korea.

Many teas from Jirsan claim that they are 'wild' but upon closer investigation they are actually either:

1- descendents of the tea trees that grew pretty much wild until the last few decades (but don't all tea trees come from ancestors that were once wild?)

2- are of a semi-wild nature where the trees are cared for very minimally and no (or almost no) chemicals are used

Peace

Chris C. said...

Hi Matt,

I've been a reader for a while now and have just tried my first Korean teas. Received both a green and yellow from a potter friend in Boesong. Was wondering if you would be interested in trying either? I could send you a link to the packages if you'd like to see them.

Matt said...

Chris,

Yes, post the links...

How did you like the tea?

Peace

MorningEarth said...

As far as I can determine, there was no natural tea or Camellia sinensis growing in Korea before 800 CE. They did use other plants to make "tea" much earlier. So all Camellia sinensis tea in Korea was at some time planted, even if it was planted over a 1000 years ago. Today many temples in the tea growing regions have tea growing in the hill side among the bamboo or trees. They are seldom cared for and sometimes even ignored entirely or partially picked by a few tea enthusiasts who take just enough for their own use - much like we pick wild mushrooms in North America.
So in this case, when is "wild" really "wild"? Is there a set of standards to determine "wild" tea? I agree, there is a confusion.
Incidentally, I would also like to have the links to the yellow and green tea in Bosong if I may. I have a couple of potter friends there too but none has sent me tea. I'll have to talk with them about that.
I hope you and the others reading this have a great New Year.

Matt said...

Morning Earth,

Standards in tea is a much debated issue.

At the very least there are internationally recognized organic certifications.

Reciently the tea plantations of Boseong have been awarded this disticntion.

See this link:
http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/hype-about-korean-boseong-green-tea.html

Thanks for your valuble comments. Looking forward to seeing more interesting posts on your blog.

Peace

Chris C. said...

Matt,

I really like the green tea quite a bit. Sweet and nutty at the same time. Very unique flavor that is nothing like Japanese or Green teas. I've only tried the yellow once, and not too sure about it. It has a flavor profile that I'm really not used to -- not unpleasant, but not sure I like it. Will try it again tomorrow.

Here are some not great pics of the packages. Can you tell me what the packages say?

http://chicagopotter.net/wp-content/gallery/misc/2009_09_29_0072-2500x1669.jpg

http://chicagopotter.net/wp-content/gallery/misc/2009_09_29_0071-2500x1669.jpg

Thanks,

Chris

Matt said...

Chris C left a comment. This is it with his personal information omitted:

Matt,

The tea was sent yesteday, so hopefully you will have it soon. I really liked your post about Korean women potters! My potter friend in Boesong is Hong Seong Il and his wife also works in clay -- Their work is very beautiful. You can view his site here: http://blog.naver.com/ttogarii

Take care,

Chris

Petr said...

If you are looking for Korean tea in US you can try also this company :http://www.dobratea.com/ I know them because They belong under one Tea franchise company from Czech rep.
They have teas from all over the world and usually one or two from Korea(now they are run out of it I think) Teas from them are not the best but not bad. And they are firstly tearoom not e.shop.

If somebody is looking for Korean tea in EU, let me know at keramikakcaji@gmail ,I know several importers in Czech r. and I usually try teas from them, so i can give you some reviews and contacts.

for Arthur from MorningEarth : I am happy to find you here and I wish you the best of luck with yours tea plans in US. Say by to Marry.

Matt said...

Petr,

How could one forget!!!

You can purchase high grade Korean Jiri Mountain tea from Martin Spimr (http://www.teamountain.cz/) in the Czech Rep. One helped him source some Korean teas back a few years ago when living in Korea.

One personally picked and produced the Jirisan green tea that Martin sells on his site (http://www.teamountain.cz/caj/66/154/woojeon_jagsulcha_vrabci_jazycek). See this blog posting on that tea: http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/2008-nok-ya-won-ujeon-handong-green-tea.html

He also offers Jirisan Ddok Cha produced by a teamasters one studied under in Korea.

( http://www.teamountain.cz/caj/66/153/dok_cha ) See this blog posting on that tea: http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/2008-nok-ya-won-wild-hadong-ddok-cha.html

Peace

Petr Novák said...

Matt,

Yes, I know Martin and his TeaMountain teas personally. He his good source of tea and tea information here in CZ. Especially his Japanese, DJs and teas from Nepal are one of the best in Europe.


I Have one more question about DdokCha. I have read almost all about this tea here and on ChaDao blog but I still miss one thing (may be becouse my English)
I know that you have written that there is probably not one accurate process but with short cut it is goes this way : picking, selecting, steaming, pounding,forming and drying. But is there a possibility that some of teamakers use this procedure : making green tea then steaming and forming(like Sheng phuer) ? Did you heard about it in Korea?

Thank you very much.
Petr

Matt said...

Petr,

Martin goes in person to most of these tea areas and gets them right from the farmer. This products are undoubtedly of high quality.

As for the ddok cha question: the production may or may not involve pounding the tea cakes, sometimes they are just pressed with a board instead of beating them. Basically, ddok cha is tea formed into a cake- production not specified.

Check out this link for more info:

http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2008/02/what-fuck-is-ddok-cha.html

Peace