Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Tea Tasting From the Foot of the Cauldron

While making tea the traditional Korean way one really gets an opportunity to see how tea morphs from fresh leaf to final product. With this, a great respect for tea and all the love, sweat, and energy that goes into it is fostered.

Particularly, the taste of tea really evolves during the drying process. During this step in the production of tea, tea and those who make tea are subjected to long bouts of slow heating over an aluminum cauldron. This is the most tedious, laborious, backbreaking, and time consuming step when making Korean tea.

These long periods of mixing the tea over intense heat are broken by short breaks were the tea is brewed. The tea is taken directly from the hot cauldron or drying rack, and at the foot of the gas fired cauldron it is mindfully brewed. During these breaks all tea labourers, their clothes soaked in sweat, become tea connoisseurs.

We talk of the quality of the batch, how much drying is still required, and how we should best complete the tea's production. Most importantly, we just enjoy such refreshing delicacies, tastes that one only experiences at the foot of the cauldron. The tea hydrates us and gives us energy to push on making tea late into the night, the fresh qi of new tea flowing throughout our bodies. It quenches our thirst, replenishes our body, and refreshes our mind.

It is most interesting to see how the flavour of the same tea changes between tastings. When the tea is at the early stages of production it looks greener, but tastes more bitter, fresh, and the mouthfeel is more gritty. As tea spends a longer time over the heat of the cauldron it excretes a yellow powder, apparently the chemical constitutes of caffeine and other chemicals, and develops a sweeter, creamier, and smoother mouthfeel.

We work late into the night, completely exhausted, our faces flushed red from the heat of the cauldron and drenched in sweat. When the final tasting is given, we all marvel at what this simple leaf has become.



Salsero said...

Wow! Thanks again.

geneviève meylan said...

The white teapot with crakled glaze is..... a wonder !I like the simplicity in this way of drinking tea.Thanks

toki said...

Master piece! Thanks again for sharing. -Toki

Matt said...

Sal & Toki,

As always thanks for such positive feedback.


That white pot is truly a natural piece of art. It is actually not a tea pot but a serving pot where the tea is poured from the tea pot before being poured into tea cups. The crack has just evolved naturally over time and through use. Although it looks as though it couldn't hold water it does just fine. The pour on this pot is also a wonder. One believes that it is a Kim Kyoung Soo work.

Drinking tea in this manner is as simple as drinking tea in a busy office.
The simplicity of tea always mirrors the simplicity of those who hold the tea cup.


geneviève meylan said...

you say that so well,....

Tuo Cha Tea said...


you are lucky indeed to experience the magic that ends with the tea we love.