Friday, April 19, 2013

A Tasting of Three Korean Powdered Teas: Hankook Tea Gamnong Matcha Powdered Green Tea, Hankook Tea Teuksun Powdered Green Tea, SsangKye Organic Sejak Powdered Tea

Hankook Tea Gamnong Matcha Powdered Green Tea

This is the boldest of Korean powdered teas. Not only does it flaunt the name "matcha" along with "powdered green tea" in its name but it was also produced by the Yang Won Suh of Hankook Tea, the only recognized grand master of Korean traditional foods for matcha (powdered green tea). Yang Won Suh passed away this year so those wanting to try the last of the matcha overseen by this teamaster should get to trying it. The can that one will open today is one of the last with his living blessings.

Hankook offers a good description and the details of its Gamnong Matcha on a blog post here. It states that this hand picked tea is stone ground from first flush, sejak grade, tea leaves (the same tea leaves used for its Gamnong Jaksul Green tea). However the leaves are shaded briefly before picking.

Let's open all the packaging and give this tea a try...

The smell of the deepish green powder is very sweet and honey-nut. It has a slightly hickory note of tamari almonds, and a grainy like odour under there as well.

The tea is whisked to a froth in the Korean powdered tea ceremony. A soft, light, grassy wood-bark initial tastes with a slight sweetness appears for a short time. A bland-wood aftertaste builds in the mouth then turns a bit sweet over the predominantly bland-wood taste. The mouthfeel turns a heavy chalky taste. Fruit tastes fail to materialize in the profile over these stronger notes. The tea leaves the tongue and mouth dry and coarse. The qi of this tea is soft and not so noticeable.

This tea is also available from Good Green Tea.

Hankook Tea Teuksun Powdered Green Tea

This tea is made from shade grown, junjak grade, second flush leaves. It shouldn't be confused with Hankook Tea Jaksul Powdered Green Tea which is a sejak first and second flush available also from Good Green Tea.

The sample package is opened and the dry powder is appreciated. The dull green powder smells of dry, woody, bitter, dusty odours.

When it is whisked up in the Korean powdered tea ceremony it yields a slightly creamy very simple wood initial taste. It turns into a sweet berry taste over top a dry wood base flavour.

The mouthfeel is thin and carries somewhat of a sticky-fine-sandy texture in the front of the mouth. The qi is unpretentious as it brings one up a bit.

Sssangkye Organic Sejak Powdered Tea

This tea is an organically grown ceramic ball milled sejak powdered green tea. Good Green Tea stocks this.

The dry pale lime green coloured powder smells of dry-woody notes with slight piercing, almost pungent-like, deep foresty notes very similar to a Jiri Mountain seajak grade tea.

The tea is whisked up in the Korean powdered tea ceremony. Strong, bitter, stale-wood, deep foresty tastes arrive first then slowly makes its way to sweet-juicy cherries in the mouth. This transition to sweet cherries is slow and uncomplicated. The mouthfeel is dry and coarse. The strong, bitter initial tastes strongly reels in and sharpens the senses.


Edited April 30/2013


Mina said...

Hi Matt. Thank you for the update. I just have one note for correction - on Good Green Tea's website, it says that SsangKye's Organic Sejak Powdered Tea is "ceramic ball milled", not "stone milled". Which is correct?

Matt said...


You are right it is "ceramic ball milled"! The correction has been made. Thanks Mina.

Think you have tried some of these teas before. What are your favorites? What are your thoughts on these Korean powdered teas?


Mina said...


I have tried Hankook Tea's powdered greens as well as a few Japanese companies' (not too many tea companies in Korea produce powdered tea).

For the initial taste, I think Japanese matchas do a better job - it hits you with a sweeter, smoother flavor that lingers in your mouth.

But I generally like my teas to have a more "grounded" taste. Korean matchas (or powdered green teas) are initially more "bitter" (I like to say "stronger in flavor") and have a more chalky feel in the mouth. But I love the way my mouth feels after the liquor has passed through and I take a few breaths - there's a subtle sweetness that comes about. This is what makes me go for more. (And after you've finished your whisked tea in your bowl, you add a little hot water almost as a "cleansing" of both the bowl and your mouth - that water will taste SOOO good...every time!)

And this may be "taboo" for some tea lovers out there - but I'm a fan of cold/iced drinks. Both the Hankook Tea powdered greens you wrote about here are fine enough where they easily dissolve in hot or cold water. I usually add 1 tsp to my mug (~12oz?), stir it in water until it dissolves and add ice. It's a great (easy) way to have "iced green tea" without having to steep anything (it only takes like 1 minute to prepare - great for when I'm busy in the office or traveling).

For the Gamnong matcha, the amount I put in and the water temperature doesn't really seem to matter too much - whether hot or cold, if I want a lighter taste, I put it less, if I want stronger, more. (Of course for hot, I would need to control the ratio of the tea to water to get the froth I want on top.)

For the Teuksun powdered green, I must say, the amount and the temperature of the water matters. Because it is a later harvest, some of the astringent flavors notes have developed more in the leaves. I find that too much of this tea in lukewarm temperature really brings out a almost-sour flavor that isn't too pleasant for me. When using this tea, I pay attention to make sure I'm using either really hot or really cold water and controlling the amount to put in (I use the suggested instructions).

You mentioned this in a previous post - but Korean powdered greens tend to have a lower content of caffeine than Japanese matchas (not all - but most). This is due to the amount of time the leaves are grown in the sun vs shade (generally shade-grown tea leaves have a higher content of caffeine than sun-grown tea leaves). Because of this factor, if I choose a Japanese matcha, it is either in the morning time or if I really need a caffeine boost (without the crash, of course). Korean powdered greens may not give you that "instant boost" (I guess this would be described as having a lower qi?), but I can have endless cups/mugs/pitchers of this all day long without having to worry about that - almost like a "healthier" alternative to drinking water - instead of 8 cups of water, I have 8 (usually more) cups of tea a day :)

Matt said...


Thanks for taking the time for this detailed opinion of Korean powdered teas and especially the thoughts on some of the teas you sell at Hankook Tea!

I have also noticed differences in powder to water ratio. Another big difference when comparing Japanese matcha to Korean powdered teas is that Korean powdered teas require less powder than Japanese matcha. If you are too heavy with the powder, Korean powdered teas will become unpalpably bitter. As you stated, the Gamnong matcha is the only one out of the bunch that is much more forgiving.

Thanks again Mina.