Tuesday, July 13, 2010

That Famous Hadong Tea Packaging

Teas from Hadong South Korea often come packaged in a generic boxes. These boxes were even featured on a commercial promoting business and tourism in Hadong which aired on CNN a few years ago.

The packaging can be used by producers in the region once an inspector from the Hadong Tea Institute inspects the tea's production and usually tries some of the tea. It is a quality control thing and ensures that someone isn't bringing in tea from a cheaper region and selling it as Hadong green tea (which in Korea would be very unlikely). It also makes sure that the people making the tea actually know what they are doing and won't put out a substandard product that would hurt the image of Hadong green teas.

This generic box indicates that this tea is not a big commercial production but rather a small batch. Selling tea in a generic Hadong green tea box has many benefits.

Firstly, it insures a certain level of quality for the consumer because it was inspected by an official from the Hadong Green Tea Institute.

Secondly, it saves the small producer the costs of designing and producing their own box which, for a small batch of green tea, would be quite costly.

Thirdly, it has some marketing appeal because it has brand recognition- in this case the brand is the actual area or "Hadong Green Tea". When customers see the generic box they know its green tea from Hadong. Hadong green tea is a part of South Korea's geographical indication system that has had much success attaching the area of Hadong to green tea (see this research on a similar affect on Boseong and green tea). Fourthly, the colour of the box indicates the grade of green tea, which can also be quite handy for the consumer.

Ujeon grade is packaged in a blue box, saejak in a camouflage green box, jungjak in a gold/yellow and brown box, and daejak in a bright (normal) green box. The red box is the generic packaging for "Bal hyo cha" (semi oxidized, yellow tea). Other than the change of colour the boxes all pretty much look the same.

It is important to note that productions with their own packaging don't follow this colour code. It is also worthy of note that most western dealers of Korean tea would probably not use this packaging because it has only "Hadong Green Tea" written in English and the rest of the characters on the box are Korean.



Michal Tallo said...

Thank you for an interesting and informative post once again!
So far, I know about two shops offering teas from Hadong in Czech republic - Teamountain, which offers Ujeon in blue box and Darjeeling.cz which offers Saejak in that "camouflage" green box. What I want to say is that it's interesting that though most western dealers wouldn't offer teas in their original packaging, tea culture is a bit different round here and tea-lovers generally prefer buying teas like these in their original packages, even if they don't understand Hangul or any other Asian characters.
Most dealers here just put a small sticker with basic information in Czech or English on this packaging.

Have a nice day!

Matt said...


That is a very interesting difference between tea culture in Czech compared to that of England and North America!

There are three more likely reasons why North American dealers of Korean tea don't use the original Korean packaging. Don't know why one didn't include these reasons in the initial post:

1- Bulk Tea Shipments- Korean tea (especially tea from Hadong) is quite expensive. To cut costs many tea dealers order tea direct from Korean producers in bulk. They can usually get a better price this way due to less costs for the farmer- they don't have to pay for the intricate packaging of Korean tea which usually is packed in at least three layers. The outer box, the cylinder inside the box, and the airtight (not vacuum packed) foil bag. Some times there is also another thin clear plastic bag inside the foil bag. Sometimes there are two of these thin plastic bags inside or sometimes there is two or even three air tight foil bags to retain the freshness of very delicate ujeon grade green tea.

2- The high price tag that comes with buying a whole box of Korean tea- Korean tea isn't cheap. A 100g box of Hadong Ujeon grade is going for $60-$100 USD in Korea directly from the producers. If tea retailers in North America hope to make any profit they have to sell it for much more than that. Most people likely would not be in the market for a full box at prices like these. On the other hand they might be interested in getting a small sample to try or for a special occasion.

3- Promoting and Marketing Their Own Business- Many North American tea dealers like to sell their teas in their own original packaging. This creates brand awareness for their business much the same way the generic Hadong tea boxes create brand awareness for 'Hadong Green Tea' in Korea. Many people in the West (maybe North America only), often say that this is "Teavana's Darjeeling Garden Black Tea" or "Silk Road Tea's Mellow Mountain Green Tea" (hypothetical, made up examples) leaving the impression that the tea is somehow from the tea shops 'special' garden and if they want more of this tea they have to buy it at the same place. When the tea actually is "Caslton Estate FTGFOP" or "Marukyu Koyamaen Sencha".

So actually there are many reasons why tea in the West (excluding Czech) would not be sold in these generic tea boxes.


michele said...

The color that the tea boxes are put in is a very interesting idea. As mentioned, it not only saves the merchant from having to buy personalized company tea boxes, it is also a recognition in itself. The blue bog mean one type of tea and the green another. Simple yet effective.

Matt said...


Your right the colour system is all about simplicity. It sure makes it easy for both customer and dealer once everyone knows what grade goes with each colour.