Monday, May 19, 2008

Making Green Tea the Traditional Korean Way- Part Four: Final Processing

When leaves have gone through the cycle of drying and rolling a few times, it becomes apparent that they cannot endure another round of rolling without breaking. The once soft and suble green leaves have become a crisp, brittle, dark grayish-green purple. When the leaves display these features it is time for them to rest.
They are carefully removed by hand and laid to rest on large screens, the same type that functionally adorn window sills. These screens allow for the largest surface area of the leaf to be exposed to air. In this way the tea sits idle, maintaining its preserved energies overnight.

The next day the tea awakens only to be returned once more to the cauldron. This final round of drying is under low heat. The fragile and brittle leaves are carefully turned by hand for a long period of time. As the tea is drying it emits a yellowish-white powder as it has done throughout repeated, long exposure to the heat of the cauldron. This powder leaves a residue in the aluminum cauldron and coats the dark hair of those working over the cauldron in a ghostly white film. The yellowish-white powder is actually the chemical constitute of caffeine. As the bitter-fresh leaves are exposed to long bouts of heat, caffeine is coxed out resulting in the final sweet taste and smell of Korean green tea.

After long hours of special handling over low heat, the leaves are completely dried. They are then placed on a traditional woven sifter where they cool. When they have cooled down, an old lady picks up the sifter and sifts out the dirt, dust, and chipped pieces of leaves using a method that has been passed down for hundreds of years in Korea. Her motions push the unwanted pieces to the edge where they are removed from the rest of the leaves.

After they have been sifted and have completely cooled they will be taken away to be placed in foil bags, the foil bags will be placed in boxes, and the boxes placed on tea shop shelves. It is here where these preserved leaves wait patiently for one to prepare them. They eagerly anticipate a time to come when warm water hits their shriveled, shrunken, curled, grayish-purple bodies, transforming them into what they were before, bright green and full of energy.

Cho Ui wrote the following about the final steps of making tea,

After one is finished making tea, it must be dried and placed into a chest. The chest must be sealed with paper for three days to allow tea to restore its true essence. After three days have gone by, tea must be retreated over low heat in an iron cauldron so that it becomes fully and completely dried.

Once the tea is dried and then cooled, it needs to be stored in a container. Tea needs to be gently guided into a container. Tea needs to be covered with bamboo bark,before the lid is sealed with thin white paper that is wrapped around the opening. A brick that is taken from the flames and then cooled is placed on top to completely seal the opening when the container is placed in storage. It is crucial that no wind makes its way into the container and it is also important that the container is not placed near open flames. If wind makes its way into the container, the tea leaves take on cold, negative qualities and if the container is near open flames, the tea leaves prematurely take on a yellowish colour.

Paraphrased from a Translation of Cha Shin Jeon in The Book of Korean Tea by Yang-Seok Yoo with changes



Brent said...

Thank you very much for this educational series of posts. Processing is one of those things I tend to hate reading about, despite its importance, but your writing style made the subject very approachable and fun to read!


Bamboo Forest said...

Reading this makes me have a deeper appreciation for the tea in my cup! All this hard work, knowledge, and sacrifice so that I, Bamboo Forest, can sit down by the tea table, in the early morning hours, and sip a cup of tea!

I've had Korean green tea once. I bought it from a shop, "Hankook Tea."

It was very expensive -- but it was also wondrous. Beautiful color, strong and wonderful taste! Korea makes excellent green tea *_*

Lewis said...

Thank you for showing and teaching me things I would never know of without visiting Korea.

"This powder leaves a residue in the aluminum cauldron and coats the dark hair of those working over the cauldron in a ghostly white film."

This is the kind of imagery I'd expect from a perfect novel, and it continues to bring me a great deal of joy to find it here.

Dennis P said...

Hi Matt,

I am writing to let you know that I thoroughly enjoy the content your site offers as I visit your site quite regularly. I also wanted to inform you that we have just begun to syndicate your content on the Twinings website ( Our main blog contributor is William Lengemen (better known for his Tea Guy Speaks blog).

Our intention with the Twinings blog is to provide an expert tea resource for tea lovers. As a subject matter expert, your blog came up and we decided to syndicate your blog content. We would love for you to check out our website. We would also appreciate any comments or feedback about the site as well.

While we may not be aggregating all the blog entries from your site, we attempt to post all the entries pertaining to tea drinking, tea health benefits, tea reviews, etc. You'll also notice that we have included a link to your website in our blog roll on our page. We would also appreciate a link on your website either in a links, resources, or blog roll section (or wherever is appropriate). Please let me know what you think.

Thanks for your time.


Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...


Thanks for the kindness. A lot of people take for granted the processing aspect of tea. One is happy to teach as you have taught.

Bamboo Forest,

Yes, Korean green tea is a real treat, one hopes that more people will have a chance to try some in the future. Currently Hankook tea is one of only a few dealers that seal Korean tea internationally. And yes, it can be quite pricey, but conversely quite good.

One hopes to post on Hankook tea in the future. The English web page is for anyone that's interested in learning more about this interesting company that has a store in California.


Your kindness shows in your comments,


One has no issues with you syndicating the content on this blog with the Twinings site.