Friday, June 29, 2012

Comparing Styles: Video of Kim Myung Soo Teaching The Korean Powdered Tea Ceremony

Above is a video of tea master Kim Myung Soo teaching the Korean powdered tea ceremony to Pedro. One studied extensively under Kim Myung Soo and directed Pedro to her on his second trip to Korea. He did pretty good as this is his first time learning the ceremony. This is how the tea ceremony is often taught to individuals, they are placed facing the teacher and just continue to go through the motions until the routine is put to memory. It is refined a bit and individual differences or very slight modifications are tolerated.

 You will instantly notice upon watching the video that this tea ceremony is quite different than the Korean powdered tea ceremony video of Hong Kyeong Hee. This is completely normal and accepted in Korea as the powdered tea ceremony has no strict prescribed pattern that has been passed down. Rather basic principles are followed and naturalness is most prized. Of note is that both Hong Kyeong Hee and Kim Myung Soo's ceremonies are almost exactly 10 minutes long.

In Hong Kyeong Hee's ceremony he is just a little bit unnatural and robotic in this movements at the beginning of his performance. This could just be from nerves as he settles into more natural movements and pace as the tea ceremony progresses. Sometimes his tea ceremony feels as thought it lacks some natural feeling with the pauses being too poignant and slightly overdone with not enough fluidity between actions. Nonetheless, it is a great powdered tea ceremony.

Kim Myung Soo's ceremony has much more of a natural flow. Her movements are relaxed, unpretentious, and have a nice continuity to them. They seem a bit more genuine. Of course this may have a bit to do with the fact that she is not preforming this ceremony in a foreign country in front of an audience.

What is most important is the lesson that Kim Myong Soo expounds at the end of the video. She reveals that the true core of all Korean tea ceremonies has less to do with timing, pace, and movements and more to do with the sincerity of the connection between the heart and mind of the host and guest. The tea and the ceremony surrounding it acts as a conduit to strengthen this bond.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Video of Hong Kyeong-Hee Preforming The Korean Powdered Tea Ceremony

This is a rare glimpse of a Korean tea master preforming the often controversial Korean powdered tea ceremony at the recent Korean Tea Exhibition. Hong Kyeong-Hee teaches tea at Inje University and the Panyaro Institute for the Way of Tea. It is important to note there are many variations of the Korean powdered tea ceremony because there is much freedom in presentation and movements.  Natural presentation is most valued in Korean tea ceremonies.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Preparing Coin Type Ddok Cha the Traditional Way: Tasting of 2008 Bo Hyang Tea Certified Organic Boseong Ddok Cha

One has been storing a bunch of coin type ddok cha for a while now in hopes of obtaining a ceramic tea roaster. The preparation of coin type ddok cha with the ceramic tea roaster was outlined in an old post. Steven Owyoung's recent detailed post covered the steps taken to charcoal roast ddok cha as done by Master Hyo Am and witnessed at the Korean Tea Exhibition. This moved one to finally prepare these coins in the traditional way without the long awaited tea roaster.
One decided to try a 2008 coin type ddok cha from the certified organic gardens of Bo Hyang Tea that Pedro had recently obtained from an early spring trip to Korea. These flower shaped coins were once strung together with straw and stored in a box. They emit a very faint, almost spicy odour.

Korean charcoal is lit and the coins are roasted over the hot charcoal with common Asian restaurant disposable bamboo chopsticks. The coins release a subtle roasted tea odour that is very similar to the odour released from the recent re-roasting of stale green tea experiments. The coins darken in colour over the heat of the charcoal and are removed from the heat as the edges of the coins stared to toast.

A glass kettle of local spring water is brought to boil and the coins are broken into thirds or halves and placed in the boiling kettle. The kettle is turned to simmer and the tea is left to steep. The room fills with a pleasant roasted tea, almost-oolong-like odour as the liquor turns from yellow to a deep amber colour.

After 10 minutes of simmering a clean hemp cloth is unfolded over a large buncheong Kim Jae Son tea cup so that the cup is under the middle portion of the hemp cloth. The tea is slowly and meditatively poured through the hemp cloth and into the cup. When the tea no longer filters into the cup, the cup is full. The hemp cloth is folded in half with the far end being folded over the bottom so that the crease of the cloth is covering half of the cup. The cloth is then folded into a triangle and the remainder of the tea is left to filer out the corner crease into the cup. The cloth is them placed next to the cup.

The tea mindfully sipped and reveals subtle watery-spicy notes over a subtle grain-cereal base. The mouthfeel is full in the mouth, a soft coarseness, with soft simulation even trailing into the mid-throat. Cereal notes linger in the aftertaste. The qi is calming, powerful, relaxing, and slightly warming.

The kettle is left to simmer another 5 minutes and the tea is filtered and imbibed once again. The tea is virtually the same as above. The cereal notes seem to carry more sweetness now and the mouthfeel is also more expansive here. Subtle forest notes are spotted under the cereal base. As the broth cools a bit it develops more subtle spicy aftertastes. The qi clears the eyes and mind and leaves one very relaxed. The chaqi tranquilizes all errant thoughts leaving peace.

For more information on ddok cha see past posts here which also have links embedded in them to Steven Owyoung's brilliant Ddok cha articles.


Monday, June 25, 2012

2012 ZeDa Tea Wild Jiri Mountain Korean Yellow Tea

This tea comes from the same small family farm, is made in the same style, and uses the same tea bushes, as the 2011 ZeDa hwang cha. Just like the 2011 balhyocha, it is all hand picked and produced exclusively by the Hong's from tea plants which surround their estate. Every year only 10 KG of this tea is put to market and only one picking of tea is done each year from these tea plants.

This tea is distributed in 320g traditional Hanji bags. Hanji, or traditional handmade Korean paper, has always played a part in Korean tea culture. Historically, it was often used to wrap or store tea. Today it is only infrequently seen in wrapping disk shape ddok cha, and exported Hei cha from China which includes the wrapping of famous teas from Hunan and the binding of tongs of puerh. Hanji is made of all natural substances and has good balance of breatheability and light control which makes it ideal to store and age naturally fermented teas. Often this paper is used by calligraphers for its natural look and feel. So it is appropriate that this very natural and traditionally produced tea is wrapped in Hanji bags.

The hanji bag is marked with a the family seal in red and the date which states that this tea was picked on April 23, 2012 in black coligraphy ink. This date places the tea as a very early saejak grade though in cases where only one tea is picked per season rarely do they spend too much time fussing about grading. A limited quantity of this tea is available for purchase from Sam of Good Green Tea in 20g standard packaging.

So let's untie the hanji bag, and prepare some of this unique Korean tea...

The wiry dry leaves have a very subtle mutted odour of woods and very faint butter which is apparent upon untying the bag. These wiry leaves are stuffed into the warmed teapot and emit an enhansed odour.

The first infusion prepared with these leaves give a soft, juicy-sweet, slighly fruity initial taste. There is a subtle spicy finish. A very watery mouthfeel appears in the mouth that goes into the mid throat and creates space with a soft dryness.

The second infusion is soft, woody, and juicy over a simple fruit base. It has a slightly cardmmon-like subtle spiciness in the aftertaste with slight fruit edges. It cools the throat upon inhalation. The qi warms the stomach nicely and clams the mind.

In the third very clean, vibrant, juicy, distinct peach-nectarine-apple flavour presents itself. The taste has a buttery edge as it slowly slides into the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is especially juicy and resides deep in the throat where a glob of saliva builds up. There is a slight dry finish in the front of the mouth. The subtle balance between the throat and mouth, front and back is amusing.

The fourth infusion is much the same as above with a distinct buttery-creamy-egg-banana fruit taste resembing a rich banana milk shake. The fifth and sixth infusions are much the same with little change in this simple tea. The mouthfeel becomes more sticky now and the taste remains stable.

The seventh infusion seems more faded with some new forest notes along with distinct fruitty banana in this simple broth. The aftertaste of these notes remain in the throat.

The eighth infusion presents woody, very ghostly notes of peach with a subtle spicy finish. The mouthfeel has lost most of its juicy edge and is now just thin, soft, and dry in the mouth. The banana taste is faint on the breath.

In the ninth, under longer infusion time and slightly hotter water, the fruit tastes become more distinct once again as very subtle wood tastes are noticed undernieth.

The tenth and eleventh infusions are still quite juicy but not as fruity. It carries more of an empty fruit taste with faint wood background. There is a note of woody, barely citrus fruit aftertaste. There is very soft chalky edges on the lips.

Overnight infusions push more fruit out of these leaves.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Drinking Monk Made Tea: 2012 ZeDa Tea Saejak Semi-wild Hwage Valley Green Tea

This tea was kindly gifted by Sam in a recent order from his Good Green Tea outfit. This saejak is sold under Good Green Tea's "ZeDa" label which intends to bring in smaller, micro farmed, wild, and rare offerings from Korea. This tea was just posted yesterday for sale on this site and has a rather interesting story to it...

This tea is all hand picked and produced by a single monk who lives and studies in a small hermitage, Am-Ja, at Chil Bul Temple (Chil Bul Sa). This monk only produces enough tea for his personal consumption every year, a somewhat common practice among monks in Korea. He picks the tea leaves from his friend's semi-wild tea gardens which surround Chil Bul Sa and picks leaves from a different tea farm each year. It is a very common practice in Korea for people to rent family farms to produce their annual batch of green teas. This year, through familial connections, Sam has managed to secure a small bit of this tea.

This monk has a rather interesting perspective on Korean green tea and produces green tea to his personal preference. He believes that too much cauldron drying/roasting only benefits the tea's initial taste but not its aftertaste. He claims that the roasting harms the essence of the tea leaves and that minimal pan drying results in a tea that is closer to its original nature. Drinking minimally produced tea can thereby foster a closer relationship with the nature which surrounds him and his daily practice. This tea is intended as a simple, daily, unpretentious tea.

It is also important to note the historical importance that Chil Bul Sa played in the history of Korean tea culture. It was famously the place where the Korean Saint of Tea, Cho'Ui, recorded the Cha Sin Jeon as stated in the Epilogue.

And with all that said, how is the tea? Let's sit down in meditation with this tea and see what this tea has to offer...

The dry leaves smell of thin, slightly tangy, chokecherry high notes which sting at the nose. Below are wood notes which follow from the medium, late saejak, leaves. Faint, deeper, more complex forest notes linger almost unnoticed beyond the more distinct initial odours.

The first pot is prepared and offers a pale, milky, plan initial taste that faintly fades away. Very soft floral notes are ghostly on the breathe minutes later a frosty-fruit taste struggles to emerge. The mouthfeel is silky and covers the front of the mouth.

The second infusion has a very simple, woody, skim-milk-like, empty initial taste that faintly fades into nothing then it picks up that simple wood note again before leaving nothing but a bland-emptiness in the mouth. Very slight, barely noticeable unpretentious florals return in the breath minutes later then fade away.

The third infusion offers soft, simple, woody notes which fade into an empty nothingness- this monotone taste lingers. Slight, empty-sweet edges are left around the tongue. Soft florals are hard to detect on the breath minutes later. The mouthfeel stays mainly in the front of the mouth and now has a sticky-coarseness to it. The qi is as simple as the taste and is slightly relaxing.

The fourth and fifth infusions continue much the same but with a barely noticeable, slight generic, fruit edge somewhat more obvious but still very very faint. In the fourth infusion there is also a slight frosty spearmint edge found on the breath minutes later which fades quickly away into nothingness. There is a distinct empty taste profile throughout.

Overall this tea feels empty and hollow with its simple monotone wood taste and distant aftertaste. The depth is faint and hard to grasp as it is located mainly in the aftertaste minutes later- an unflattering tea perhaps best suited for a zen (kor. seon) monk.

The sixth infusion is watery with a very slight sweet edge to it. Some very faint fruit edges appear on the breath minutes later. The qi is still simple and relaxing with a slight superficial warmth which develops in later infusions.

The is tea is put to a seventh infusion and is much the same simple taste, now more watery, with slight frosty-sweet edges in a simple broth.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Korean Tea Potters and Masters: Some Informative Links

Although there is very little English information on the famous Korean potters who focus on teawear, there are a few simple but informative sites worth a look if you are interested in appreciating such things...

Thoart offers lots of great background on some of these masters. About 1/3 of the artists featured have their hands in the Korean tea scene. What's great about this site is that the works featured are for sale.

Korea Folk Art offers background on famous tea ceramists Kim Jeong Ok and Chon Han Bong as well as many other non-tea related Korean ceramic artists.

Lee Yi Arts was once a great site which had fairly detailed bios on the Korean tea potters. The link has since been broken and the site is now inaccessible.

There is a wealth of info on contemporary and mainly non-tea Korean potters that can be found at Of note is Huh Sang Wook, an interesting tea focused potter.

Cho Hak's Dawan, Chawan, Chassabal blog features posts on some great Korean tea potter masters where his Morning Crane Tea blog focuses on potters whose works are for sale. Both are interesting and tea focused reads.

And, of course, there are over 90 posts here on MattCha's Blog that are labeled "Korean Pottery".



Friday, June 15, 2012

2012 Good Green Tea Ujeon Korean Green Tea (Later Found To Be Woomong Premium First Pick Ujeon from Hwagae Valley)

Those who drink Korean tea and look forward to the first teas of the season have to wait longer than those who prefer Chinese or Japanese green tea, but, hands down, the wait is worth it! This year's long wait was broken by a shipment of tea from Sam at Good Green Tea. In it he kindly gifted some Ujeon from his personal stash. He refused to reveal any background on this tea until one had sampled it so here we go...

The very small dry leaves smell of rich sweet berries. These leaves are added to a warm pot and the session commences...

The first infusion starts with an initial sweet taste which has a very light, creamy-forest fingerprint lingering underneath. It contains a long, cloudy, ethereal-creamy sweetness in the finish. The mouth salivates. The mouthfeel is soft and juicy from the push of saliva. A cool, fresh energy vibrates within this first pot cooling the feet and face like a soft breeze.

The second infusion carries a noticeable depth of fresh, deep forests and a fruity berry vagueness. It develops into a creamy-richness. The aftertaste slowly evolves into a berry-forest taste, even cantaloupe notes are revealed later. The mouthfeel is full but fluffy in the mouth.

The third infusion has a noticeable full sensation in the mouth. A foresty depth appears first then evolves into an almost creamy-sweetness with elusive fruit high notes just lingering below. These tastes seem to appear more distinctly minutes later as the tea stimulates the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and back of the tongue. The depth of the soft mouthfeel reaches into the mid-throat causing a small swell of saliva to ball up there.

In the fourth infusion creamy notes now seem to be more present over the forest notes however they evolve into a forest-sweet-berry taste which is hard to separate in the mouth. The forest is soft but a touch deep and the berries are high. The aftertaste is becoming more deep with heavier forest notes there and a subtle sweetness that can't quite evolve into berry-sweetness. This tea feels profoundly relaxing, the insides feel comfortable, the skin and extremities just slightly cool and light. The qi is tranquil and relaxing the head floats into the clouds outside. The mouthfeel maintains and that gloob of saliva still pools in the throat minutes after swallowing.

The fifth infusion is light, watery, creamy, and fresh initially then a soft light wave of creamy forest notes with lemon meringue edges appear in the soft taste profile.

The sixth infusion is watery and somewhat woody with a sweet-vague taste that doesn't fully develop nor does it fade away. There is a sour-citrus-sweet edge to the aftertaste with appears briefly then disappears just as fast. It leaves a forest aftetaste with slight sour-sweet edge.

The seventh is much the same now with suggestions of spice which is almost unnoticeable in the soft depth. The aftertaste here is a soft mix of faint sweet and sour citrus fruit and berries, this taste is soft but distinct and delivers a nice finish. The mouthfeel and throatfeel hold nicely even late into the session.

The eight infusion is faint, creamy, still a touch of sweetness however the taste is fading and kind of just blends tastes over the whole profile, thinning its depth. There is still a slight muted edge of foresty, creamy, barely citrus taste to it but doesn't carry into the aftertaste. The mouthfeel and chaqi remain solid until the end. Ones mind is chill.

Most definitely an all hand picked and processed, wild/semi wild, jirisan green tea processed very minimally.  Thanks Sam.


Edit (June 19/2012): Sam later revealed that this tea comes from Woomong tea garden in Hwagae Valley. It was picked the very first day of the 2012 season and is premium Ujeon. It is produced all by hand, semi-wild bush.

Double Peace

Thursday, June 14, 2012

First Online English Tea Shops to Sell 2012 Korean Tea

Last week the first four English online tea shops posted the first of this year's 2012 Korean tea. Shan Shui Teas is offering 2012 harvest of all the teas they carried last year from Koryeo and a Jungjak from Ssangkye. Hankook Tea, which featured some of their early 2012 grades at the World Tea Expo, have these available online. Jiri Mountain Tea Company out of Korea has selected their teas for the season and include Ujeon green tea and Junjak "sunset" balhyocha from Kim Jong Yeol of Butea and Saejak from tea master Oh Si Yeong. Good Green Tea has put up for sale the limited 2012 ZeDa micro farmed Ujeon grade wild balhyocha with newly arriving teas being posted in the coming weeks.

It should be noted that if the harvest date is not specifically stated on the site you should always send the dealers a message to ensure that you recieve the freshest harvests. Often it is the pracitce of selling off last seasons tea before the fresh tea is put to market. However, if you contact the company, they will always send you the freshest in stock. Korean green tea has a shelf life of two years which is usually recorded underneath the box. In the tea shops of Korea the expiry date is unofficially one year after which the tea is usually given away or significantly reduced in price.

One has probably missed some of the dealers that are now selling 2012 Korean teas. If any readers know of any other dealers who have updated their Korean tea stock with 2012 teas please let us know so the Updated Online List of Korean Tea Shops can be updated accoringly.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Experiments with Storing Re-roasted Green Tea

After re-roasting some stale green tea last month, a large portion of the nicely roasted tea was stored in a ceramic tea jar by master Kim Kyoung Soo. The tea jar was filled about 4/5 full of this green tea. Every week one tried some of the tea in the jar to see how this re-roasted tea evoloves. Below are some general comments on how this tea changed over the course of the last month.

In the first week of storage the green tea lost some of its superficial fire, that roasted quality which tastes as if the tea just came out of the pan. The other characteristics of taste, smell, mouthfeel, and qi sensation were holding from the re-roast. Higher notes did not become more vibrant but were more noticable without the roasted tastes stealing attention away. This is often refering to as "mellowing"- where the superficial fire is given time to disapate and the balance of the yin and yang of tea solidifies.

Into the second week of storage this tea held its own but started to wane near the end of the week. Into the third week this tea developed soft brackish, bitter notes which resembled the tea prior to re-roasting. Its qi started to turn as well, becoming more stagnant in the guts.

After the third week the tea continued to move closer to where the tea was before roasting. In the fourth week the tea has become pretty undrinkable once again with a qi which beats down on the stomach and abdomen. It is said that the longer the roast or drying the longer that the properties of fire will remain in the leaf, this is as true for initial production as it is for re-roasting.  This tea had undergone only minutes of re-roasting which may have lead to the short lived changes in the tea.

It should be noted that the ceramic Kim Kyoung Soo tea jar was not sealed air tight. As the month passed less and less tea was taking up space in the jar and the tea consumed later would have been exposed to more air as the lid was opened every time to fetch more tea. Perhaps next time one re-roasts some older tea there should be some type of control- a zip lock bag to compare.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

2009 Yunnan Sourcing Lao Man E

This sample comes care of Hobbes of The Half-Dipper and is available for purchase at Yunnan Sourcing. There is great article on Lao Man E from the Tea Urchin that is worth a read if you haven't (here). With the unseasonably cool, rainy, and cloudy spring in Victoria, one has been drinking lots of puerh. Next week the Korean tea will start arriving at the doorstep but if the weather doesn't improve prehaps one will still be drinking puerh?

Today is one of those unseasonable days. Let's stay warm with some puerh from Lao Man E...

The long, hairy, dry leaves are filled with many white buds and smell of pungent, barely sweet forest odours with a deep sweetness staying in the nose.

The first infusion has an initial taste of deep mushrooms with a subtle sweet taste. There are pungent-foresty-spicy notes in the finish. The breath has a soft returning coolness over the pungent forest base which is quite nice. The mouthfeel is soft and thin and already its presence is felt in the upper throat. Its qi is felt tossing in the stomach even after the first cup.

The second infusion is made up of a creamy, mushroom-forest pungent tastes that trail into a long very light pungent but creamy sweet aftertaste. A soft creamy-cooling sensation lingers in the mouth. Their are some muddled berry tastes minutes later on the breath. The mouthfeel is very soft but now reaches deep into the throat.

The third infusion has much the same flavour as above however now slight bitter notes infringe on the taste profile- the higher notes seem muted by this new show of strength. The mouthfeel becomes somewhat thicker and slightly pasty on the lips. The qi swells up in the chest and swirls in the stomach.

The fourth infusion delivers soft, smooth, light mushroom-pungent-forest initial tastes. It develops into smooth-sweetness over a faint smokey-roasted coffee-forest depth. There are distinct cherry notes in the aftertaste as well giving it an interesting complexity.

In the fifth infusion the liquor reveals clear, slightly creamy, almost nutty-chocolate tastes. It has a cool nutty finish. The qi now seems to toss the mind about and one can feel the heart beating in the chest from this powerful chaqi.

The sixth and seventh infusions have clear, light foresty notes that carry a slight but distinct dark coco edge. The taste finishes in the mouth with a light, dirty forest and slight coco taste. The taste becomes more simple in these infusions. The qi has a nice warmth to it and brings warmth to the head, face, and spine. The mouthfeel is sticky, full and throaty.

The eighth infusion is much like the last but simple fruity notes can now be noticed.

The ninth infusion becomes more brackish with soft bitter, dirty forest, and coco still easily found in the taste. There is also still a nice cool finish in the throat with berry edges in the aftertaste.

The subsequent infusions become more dirty and muddled with a very simple distinct bitter-coco taste. The chaqi is powerful even into the twelfth infusion.

Link to Hobbes' (The Half-Dipper) Tasting Notes