Friday, February 3, 2012

Hankook Tea Introduction and 2011 Hankook "Gamnong" Early Saejak Korean Green Tea

Hankook is one of the oldest tea companies in Korea and have been producing tea since the 1950s. They are famously known as the first Korean tea company to set up shop in the West when they opened their store in Los Angeles years ago. Hankook Tea has a strong presence in Korea and their teas can be found in upscale department stores such as Lotte Department Store. They are quite popular in their hometown of Gwangju, Korea's sixth largest city.

Currently they own four tea gardens in the southwest of the peninsula in South Jolla Province. Had once heard a Korean teamaster refer to these areas broadly as the "Gwangju tea growing area". More specifically they have gardens in Haenam, Youngam, Jangsung, and famous Boseong. All the tea they produce is hand picked and machine processed. Hankook uses the steaming method instead of the more traditional iron cauldron frying method to kill green. The result is less traditional but more stable quality green tea.

Hankook currently has two tea lines- a classic line and, starting last year, an organic line. The classic line is produced from tea that comes from a mixture of their four tea gardens with the taste standardized by the machine processing. The organic line is produced exclusively from a single certified USDA organic tea garden in Jangsung that is also certified green label (the highest standard of Korean organic certification).

The very generous Sam of Good Green Tea has kindly gifted the entire classic line in the new Hankook Tea 40g cylinder packaging. Expect reviews of these teas in the coming weeks and months. The first up is the Gamnong an early Saejak. A bit of an unnatural tea for the middle of winter, but as confused flowers bloom on this bright overcast day, it somehow feels right.

The very small deep green leaves smell of a rich, deep, smooth rubbery sweetness with distinct creamy florals. Distant wood notes and lighter vegital green forest layers are also pined down. These leaves are added to a prewarmed tea pot and the first infusion commences.

The first infusion presents with a soft, smooth, very sweet, juicy taste that rolls nicely to fragrant, flowering florals in a bright green cup. The aftertaste contains some smooth barely green-lime notes but mainly briezy-soft and smooth floral tastes. The mouthfeel is thin but round in the mouth, it induces salivation, its almost chalky.

The second infusion starts with creamy intensely sweet florals which share space with touches of green lime forested tastes. The sweet soft flowing floral taste is all that is left in the full aftertaste that shares room with both green and some lesser deep forest notes. There are soft cherry notes that come out with a slight bitterness when this tea is pushed harder. There is a dominating soft, creamy sweetness in the aftertaste.

The third infusion presents a full creamy-chalky floral taste which evoloves in the mouth slowly turning a bit woody-lime then into that smooth, sweet, floral aftertaste. This aftertaste is smooth and long and wallows in a mouthfeel that is full but doesn't enter the throat. The mouthfeel is thin but with sustenance.

The fourth infusion presents soft floral greeny lime initial tastes with dry wood notes starting to comprise more of the mix. The greeny-lime notes have encroached on smooth sweet florals. Now the sweeter notes and subtle bitterness reside more in the distance here. The aftertaste is faint wood then slowly to a sweeter-floral-barely woody aftertaste. The qi of this tea is mild-calming on the mind and soft on the body.

The fifth infusion has woody-dry muted tastes which now dominate the initial taste with lime-forest notes revealing a touch of sweetness. The aftertaste is still woody but floral notes can be sensed there. A soft-bitter-bland residue is left in the mouth that has barely sweet edges now. Some chalky fruit element flashes in the mouth. The mouthfeel becomes a touch grainy.

The sixth infusion reveals woody, bland, deeper forest tastes. There is not much left to this tea other than a faint sweet floral taste distant in the aftertaste.

This tea is also available directly from Hankook in 100g size.



Letizia said...

Very interesting post! Thank you!

Matt said...


Thanks for your continued interest!


GoodGreenTea said...

Great review and fantastic pictures, as always.
In the middle of winter in Canada, "Flowers bloom"?
It got to be a plum blossom. :)

Matt said...


Have seen even a few confused "mae hwa" flowers near the ocean a week ago. The flower in the picture is a struggling azalea picked in front of the house which is usually a vibrant pink when growing in the right conditions. With the warm weather we have been receiving the flowers don't know whether it is Spring or just Winter playing games.

Have been enjoying much more green tea with this very mild winter weather. Feel just as confused as those flowers... Hahaha

Thanks again Sam.