Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 Kim Shin Ho's Hwagae Valley Ujeon Green Tea

This tea was given as a gift from Kim Shin Ho pasted on from Pedro of Dao Tea. Mr. Kim is one of the Korean teamasters that Pedro sources his tea from. It is of the highest grade, the earliest pick offered by Kim Shin Ho picked in scenic Hwagae Valley. Pedro says that nobody is interested in paying astronomical amounts of money for Ujeon here in North America. If you feel differently, email Pedro and he might be able to get some for you (for a price of course).

Yesterday, was the first day that broke 20 degrees Celsius. Today it is 33 degrees so to celebrate this bag of Ujeon is snipped open. As the kettle fills the room with more heat, one takes time to celebrate the dry leaf.

The small leaves are filled with salty, light, sweet, nutty, light pine. The leaves are a subtle pine menthol- the smell is very fresh.

These small leaves go through the rounds at first with barely warm water, then longer with much warmer water as the session proceeds.

The first infusion has pine notes that finish creamy and sweet with an aftertaste that is creamy and nutty, rich and smooth. The mouth feels slippery and smooth as the sipped tea glides over ones tongue quenching ones thirst. This is a very slick Ujeon.

The second infusion is the same slick creamy sweet pine but add in some very soft astringency for good measure. The saliva thickens and separates from the tongue which remains dry. This tea is very viscous in nature. The aftertaste is both creamy and salty- something interesting to linger about.

The third infusion is prepared. The sweet notes seem to mainly move into the aftertaste which develop with creamy pine notes. This infusion feels juicier than the previous. This thick tea evolves on the tongue and mouth long after it is swallowed.

The chaqi replenishes body and mind on this extremely hot day. Its affect is sedative in nature as it alerts more peripherally than directly.

With the affects of the chaqi taking hold one prepares the fourth pot. It is still creamy and full in the mouth but has a grainy grittiness that begins to evolve. The pure notes are starting to muddle slightly. The aftertaste is dry. Most of what happens in this cup happens after it is swallowed. The flavour has moved to its deep, rich aftertaste.

In the fifth infusion things begin to show signs of fading as much of the same is presented here. The graininess is more pronounced. Spicy aftertaste note pops up- something not seen in infusions before this. The aftertaste still has much to savour.

The sixth infusion the deep flavour and feel of this tea is peeled away considerably. Lighter floral notes become more obvious. The creamy sweetness of this tea is also uses this opportunity to stick out.

This tea is enjoyed up to nine infusions with even the ninth bringing out a fuzzy-creamy aftertaste but nothing much more. By then one feels refreshed on this abnormally hot day on the island.



Ho Go said...

An interesting comment by your tea source, Pedro. 'No one in N. America is interested in paying astronomical prices for these teas'.

I have the same feeling but I ask myself 'Is this tea worth paying astronomical prices for?'

By all accounts during my trip to Korea this spring, the consensus was that the tea crop was not a particularly good one. Personally, I couldn't find a good green to satisfy my tastes and the prices didn't justify what I received back. From your tasting of this particular tea, is it worth the price?

Matt said...

Ho Go,

Thought that this ujeon was quite nice. Surely one has tasted better ujeon but this first pick by Kim Shin Ho seemed to evolve more infusion-to-infusion than most. This kept the infusions interesting. On top of that its mouthfeel and chaqi were also pronounced. The high notes that usually appear in the first few infusions were buried deep and come out slighly later. One can only compare this tea to another ujeon sampled this year which was from Pedro's other producer Kim Jung Yeol. This ujeon was the better of the two. From sampling just these two ujeons this year with no record of how last years ujeon from these producers tasted, it is hard to state that this years crop is below the standard of previous years.

"Is it worth the price?" That depends on how much Pedro is willing to sell it for and how much you value completely handmade Korean tea.

"Variety is the spice of life" so one never orders the same ujeon twice. Perhaps this same phrase could apply to someone who has never tried ujeon and this could be the tea for them.


Anonymous said...

I'm curious if you're familiar with the "Cheong Seok Gol / 청석골" tea from Hadong? It's the Korean green tea of choice at the tea shop I go to in Seoul. I've tried a few others, but mostly stick with this one, for no other reason than I trust their choice. I'm curious, if you know much of it, how it compares with others. Honestly, I've spent more time communicating with Chinese and Taiwanese teas, and don't know Korean tea as intimately.

And speaking of the island, I've been toying with the idea of opening a tea house in Victoria. I've never actually been there, it's just the place that comes to mind when I think about such things. I wonder if there are already many on the island, or if there would be enough interest to support one? I hope you don't mind asking your opinion, but I trust you have a good sense of the tea scene! ^^
Thank you

Matt said...


Have never hear of "Cheong Seok Gol" Green tea from Hadong. There are so many productions from Hadong, most of them smaller in scale.

There are many 'English Style' tea houses, there is one Japanese green tea house, there is one matcha bar, and there is one large popular retailer in Victoria. The amount of tea shops/ stores in Victoria is unprecedented for a Canadian city of only 350, 000.

Is there room for another?

Perhaps. There is no tea house specializing in Chinese/ Korea tea yet. You can tell from the shops that already exist that Victorians prefer Japanese green tea (especially matcha) and colonial black teas.

If you ever opened a tea shop, one would proudly be your first customer. :)


Ho Go said...

somewhereindhamma, do you remember which tea shop you bought this in?
There is a shop in Insadong owned by a Mr. Ha. He carries a tea brand called Dongcheon from Hadong. I bought his Ujeon which was very good. Here is the link to the Dongcheon website. It's in Korean, though.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Matt,
What I have in mind is a "sit down, enjoy a pot of tea" sort of place with Korean and Chinese snack suitable for tea, mixed with a retail section.
Thank you for th encouragement! ^^

Hello Ho Go,
I buy nearly all my tea at "Kkik Da Geo",a street over from Insadong,just before the large Jogye Temple.

There are a couple shops I enjoy browsing in Insadong,especially for herbal tea. There's one very small shop in particular that I ebjoy dropping by,but I couldn't even tell you the name, to be honest. They have really nice Taiwanese tea-pots thought.
Thank you for the link!

Ho Go said...

I know the shop. I walked in one evening and was invited to sit and drink tea with the other patrons. Unfortunately, it was near closing time and I didn't have time to return there. Nice man with lovely wife. He is a Puerh guy. Is his Korean green teas of good quality?

Matt said...


You would definitely have to lots to educate the public and do some heavy marketing but there is currently no one who offers this kind of tea shop in Victoria. The Chinese population isn't as strong here on the island as it is in say Vancouver. It seems there are relatively more Japanese and Korean though.

Checked out the link to "Kkik Da Geo", the location is particularly familiar- believe one did stop in once or twice a few years back- but just to browse. From their web site it looks like it sells the usual stuff- Jookrow & Ssanggye, a few smaller offerings, Andong chrysanthemum, some mulberry, and lotus leaf, MK and Yame matcha, some old, simple puerh.

Never before remember trying Cheongseokgol, how would you describe it?


Matt said...

Ho Go,

As fate would have it, a cylinder of Dongcheong ujeon appeared at ones doorstep this morning! There is a small sample inside, enough for one pot.

Old growth cedar
still in the sun
kettle boiling
one drinks tea.


Ho Go said...

Haha, the power of the word?! By all means let us know how you like it and how it might compare to the other Ujeon's you've had this season. The price by the way in Seoul was about $100/100g. Drink up.