Thursday, March 29, 2012

Introduction to Dong Cheon and 2011 Dong Cheon Jungjak Semi-Wild Hwagae Valley Green Tea

Arthur Park of Morning Crane Tea has been the driving force behind the growth and popularity of Dong Cheon tea in North America. It is becuse of his efforts that there are now many vendors of Dong Cheon tea. He has offered a quick background on Dong Cheon which is worth a good read. The following is a short take on Dong Cheon.

Dong Cheon is a tea cooperative of 88 tea farmers which includes only tea farms located in the Hwagae Valley tea producing area. All participating farms adhere to a strict compliance of no chemical fertalizers or pesticides. All of the tea is also all hand picked and is minimally cared for. The tea plants are of the variety that was originally planted on Jiri Mountain by Kim Daeryoem in 828 A.D.

The production of Dong Cheon tea is closely monotored by tea master, Kim Jong Gyun, where he maintains high quality standards. The production is done by machine, something that is quite uncommon in Hadong. Machine processing is standard to create a quality uniform product from many different tea farms. All tea coops in Korea from Boseong to Jeju  use machine processing to maintain tea uniformity. Tea coops are the norm in Boseong and Jeju but, to ones knowledge, Dong Cheon is the only tea coop in the Hadong tea producing area. The quality is such that one initially thought it was hand produced.

The method of production of Dong Cheon green tea is also not the norm in Hadong. Dong Cheon uses the jung cha method of green tea production. It requires a step where the fresh tea leaves undergo a plunge into boiling water before being pan fired. Aurthor Park promises a in depth post on the farmers of Dong Cheon soon so keep an eye on his blog for more detail. Until then let's look at one of Dong Cheon's green teas from 2011- the jungjak grade gifted by Arthur Park a few months back.

The dry leaves are dull, woody, and muted with faint forest odours. These medium green curled leaves have a light, muted lingering roasted grain smell.

The first infusion is prepared and it pours a pale yellow. Sweet, light Captain Crunch like flavours, the smell of sweet corn cereal, predominates. The taste is monotone and simple but enjoyable. The mouthfeel is very thin.

The second infusion is prepared and more concrete corn tastes now present themselves along with simple wood undertones- less sweetness now. There are almost chocolate-cherry notes that linger far in the distance. The mouthfeel starts to coat the mouth in a simple dryness.

In the third infusion a simple dry wood initial taste starts to dominate the corn-sweetness which is now just faintly residing underneath. The aftertaste is a muted continuation with very faint lingering sweet corn tastes that are barely detectable. The tea coats the mouth in a thin grainy dryness not quite making it to the throat. The chaqi now begins to pull on the stomach a bit and warm the face and head. This sensation then travels down the the body lightly warming it. Minutes later a rubbery dry bland taste is left in the mouth.

The fourth infusion gives us dry, woody, cereal tastes with just the slightest flash of sweet corn in the aftertaste. The dry, woody, cereal taste holds its own throughout the taste profile that corn-barley sweetness is left on the breath.

The fifth infusion is pretty much just dry wood with a slight cereal sweetness which is almost depleted. A sweetness can be detected almost like a faint sugar on the teeth and on the breath.

The sixth and seventh infusions are watery, dry, monotone wood with a very distant sweet cereal note that can be sensed.


Monday, March 26, 2012

2011 ZeDa Tea Wild Jiri Mountain Korean Yellow Tea

Sam of Good Green Tea sent this box of micro farm balhyocha which he glowed about weeks before over email. Later he reported that he acquired it from a small farm from Sancheong, Jiri Mountain, and that is was completely wild tea. He claimed that Mr. Hong has over 50 years experience making tea and that he makes it all by hand with only the help of his wife. Mr. Hong makes only Hwang cha (balhyocha) with his tea leaves and only produces 15 Kg per year (he keeps 5 KG of this tea). The production of this tea is all natural and even includes air drying the leaves on big heated boulders during night time instead of the standard ondol heated floors which are commonly used to produce balhyocha.

Sounds to good to be true, as these micro-garden Korean teas rarely ever make it too market, never mind North American market. Lets look at the dry leaves and see if this tea is the real deal.

The dry leaves are quite small, likely ujeon grade, with some buds in the mix. Very juicy and sweet, very vibrant odours emit from these thin, rolled leaves. Strong fruity peachy dried apricot notes are apparent.

The first infusion contains soft peach notes with sweet pure light sugary tastes that glide across the tongue. It leaves a smooth fresh apricot finish in the mouth. The mouthfeel is full but soft, light and very clean.

The second infusion delivers a very distinct peach and spicy pungent cinnamon initial taste. A very light but rich smooth base of sweet autumn leaves is underneath which delivers a clean deeper malty taste that faintly lingers in the distance. These tastes, especially the distinct peach and cinnamon, fade into the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is light but full leaving a sweet taste in the mid-throat. The qi is profoundly relaxing and completely spaces out the mind.

In the third infusion the fruity taste and spicy cinnamon taste seem inseparable and very strong and pure in the initial flavour. Soft persimmon and dried apricot come to mind. The mouthfeel is full and leaves the mouth and throat soft and slightly sticky. Barely detectable underneath is the sweet malty-syrup taste providing a bit of contrast to the sweet, dominating pungent fruit tastes. The qi emits a subtle warmth on this cool windy day. The mind feels tranquil.

The fourth and fifth infusion are much the same as the third- very fresh, clean, deep, smooth, and soft. The persimmon is bready now with still quite sweet edges. The mouthfeel continues to impress with its soft gentle nuances in harmony with this gentle clean tea.

The sixth infusion has more of a smooth spiciness with fruity notes becoming weaker while the malty, caramel depth drawing more attention. This tea maintains much of its taste throughout the session without moving too much away from these pleasant pure tastes.

The seventh infusion is now of plumby-peach wood with pungency that is almost gone. The light caramel tastes are still apparent. These tastes fade into faint apricot that stays on the breath.

The eighth and ninth infusions impart a bready quality upfront which turns to persimmon then slowly fades away. This tea is taken for a few more longer infusions which bring out sweet pure, deep, rich malty fruit pear tastes with subtle spicy persimmon.

This tea is sold under the name "ZeDa Tea" at Good Green Tea which has nothing to do with the Korean source. It is simply a brand that Sam started which is bringing in wild or small farmed teas.

This tea has since sold out but Sam is taking pre-orders for the 2012 version of this same tea.  Contact him if you are interested.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2011 Hankook Hwang Cha Korean Yellow Tea

Before falling off the face of the Earth for about a month, one finished this 30g cylinder of Hankook Tea's Hwang cha. It was kindly sent by Sam of Good Green Tea a few months back. One thing that is important to note is that Hankook sells two grades of Balhyocha- "Chigarok Hwang Cha" made of young, likely ujeon grade leaves, and "Hwang Cha" produced of older grade (maybe saejak or jungjak) leaves. This review is of the standard "Hwang Cha".

The dry leaves have dry earth-wood spicy notes. The odours come in layers with some being creamy, nutty, almost, but not quite chocolaty. They have a woody-nut-sweetness over an almost stale wood with a spicy-sweet undertones.

The first infusion delivers very light, watery, soft wood tastes which comes first. It has a hollow, dry quality to it and very little sweetness. Subtle pear tastes can be found in the profile as well. The mouthfeel carries a dry quality. The aftertaste has a very faint suggestion of dates over the dry simple wood tastes.

The second infusion is prepared and pours a very light, simple watery wood taste. It turns dry in the mouth then a faint date and even fainter coco and nut taste can be parsed from the predominating monotone of dry wood. The aftertaste is short and dry but presents a very faint pumpkin sweetness. The mouth is covered in a drying mouthfeel consisting of a slight gritty sensation.

The third infusion has a very dry, monotone, simple initial taste which transitions to a subtle spicy, barely brown sugar and persimmon fruit sweetness. These sweet tastes can be detected in the aftertaste under woody-dryness. The mouthfeel doesn't reach the throat but drys the mouth.

The fourth infusion has faint, roasted nut taste which reach toward hollow, dry wood. This inital taste turns a touch creamy before fading to a faint nutty taste. The aftertaste is dry and hollow but has an edge of persimmon to it.

In the fifth infusion the faint persimmon tastes starts to present in the initial taste profile along with the much more subtle dry wood taste. It gives this initial taste a juicy quality to it. This taste holds and doesn't evolve much throughout the profile. The qi of this tea is very weak-mild, neutral thermal nature.

The sixth infusion has spicy nutty wood notes along with slight persimmon in a simple tea broth. The once predominant wood notes are now even more muted as lighter tones arrive.

The seventh and eight infusions shows off soft, dry wood with gentle persimmon. They finishes nutty, almost coco tasting. The transition through the taste profile is smooth and balanced- this tea feels more balanced here in these later infusions as the dry wood taste has yielded to these softer notes. A very faint persimmon sweetness lingers in the mouth minutes later.

The ninth, tenth, and eleventh infusions are predominantly weak watery, dry wood now with the faint fruit notes vague and distant.

This tea can also be purchased in an 80g cylinder as well.