Sunday, February 17, 2013

Top Annual Korean Tea Festivals, Fairs, and Conventions

Korea is a festival full nation with hundreds and hundreds of annual festivals. Most festivals in Korea highlight a local custom, tradition, agricultural product, and often occur at a time which best highlights the beauty of an area or during a time of year that is most relevant to the particular industry or product. Like in Japan and China, the harvest of tea in Korea is a symbol of Spring. So it is fitting that the six main tea festivals of Korea take place in Springtime.

Mungyeong Traditional Chasabal (Teabowl) Festival (Late April-First Week Of May)

This festival kicks off the tea festival season in Korea in late April-first week of May. It is located in Mungyeong, a region that was historically influential in the production and evolution of tea bowl ceramics in Korean and conversely Japan. It brings together some of the top masters of Korean tea pottery and is a place where they can showcase their talent. It also draws new potters to the festival trying to establish themselves in the industry. It is maybe the festival that has reached out the most to international participants and visitors over the years. Every year it draw in famous international tea potters as well as there is a contest for international potters. In the years past Korean influenced European potters Petr Novak of Pots and Tea blog and Daivid Lourveau have exhibited there. Cho Hak of Morning Crane Tea blog usually does a tour to this festival every year. The Korean powered tea ceremonies are also a must see at Mungyeong Teabowl Festival.

Hadong Wild Tea Culture Festival (First Week of May)

This festival is located in the heart of Korea's most traditional tea growing region, Hadong. The tea season officially kicks off in Hagong at Gogu (April 20ish) where the yearly ceremony giving thanks to the tea god takes place. The tea festival follows a few weeks later but continues to highlight the most traditional aspects of Korean tea culture such as the Korean tea ceremony. It is also a festival which gets you out into the fields of wild and semi-wild tea and focus on traditional picking and production. It is the only festival that puts you smack dab in the action in the middle of the busiest time of tea picking in Korea.

Boseong Green Tea Festival (Third Week of May)

This festival is located in the most well-know of Korea's tea producing areas, Boseong. The tea festival in Boseong is more of a mainstream Korean tea experience. The event includes not only picking tea and producing it in the perfect looking, machine manicured tea fields, but also trying and even making some of the other agricultural products are produced from the area's tea leaves. Of course there is also a chance to try some of the best green tea Boseong has to offer. The Boseong Tea Research Center has events running throughout the festival.

Daegu World Tea Culture Festival (Thrid or Fourth Week in May)

This tea festival in one of the largest conservative metropolitan citys in Korea, Daegu, draws a big crowd of tea exhibitors from the surrounding tea areas to the South. Tea culture is strong and well in Daegu and it shows in this festival that takes place in the EXCO convention center. Packed full of tea exhibitors, it offers a nice balance of famous Korean tea producers, local tea shops, and tea ceramic exhibitors. Expect a full line up of Korean tea ceremony performances, if you attend.

Tea World Festival (Seoul) (First Week of June)

This is the main annual commercial tea exhibition in Korea and takes place in Seoul's COEX convention center. With the main tea picking season over in Korea, all focus is on this, the largest tea gathering in Korea. All the big Korean producers have booths at this exhibition with tonnes of small producers and farmers with stalls mixed in as well. This is also the festival with the biggest international tea presence. The stage features Korean related tea performances and lectures. One of the interesting events is the open invitation, group, Korean tea ceremony.

Busan International Tea and Craft Fair (Last Week of October)

Busan is clever enough to offer a tea festival in the exact opposite season (six months away) from the best tea picking time in Korea. It definitely quells the thirst of Korean tea lovers as it offers the standard fare of tea and tea related exhibitors in a standard convention center setting, the BEXCO convention center. This convention, as the title implies, has more folk and craft exhibitors in the mix as well.

It should be noted that the festivals that take place in the city convention centers actually take place over a period of 4 days (Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun) where the Festivals in the growing areas typically run from 5-8 days. It should also be noted that each of the websites hyperlinked in this post have English pages that are accessed in the top right of the Korean page.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Victoria Tea Festival Review: Old Faces Jagasilk & Chado Tea House

It was nice catching up with old tea exhibitors at the Victoria Tea Festival this year. One did not get a chance to chat with Peter & Fumi of Chado Tea House. This was due to the long lines at their booth were they were selling selling strait shooting Japanese Teas for uninflated Japanese tea prices. One did however get a chance to chat with anther long time Japanese tea exhibitor at the Victoria Tea Festival, Jared & Miyuki of Jagasilk.

Local favorite Jagasilk was the only exhibitor to have exhibited at every Victoria Tea Festival. Although they are an old face, they have their hands in many new innovative matcha related projects. They have developed a Hemp and Matcha Protein Powder teaming up with Canadian Olympic gold medalist Adam Kreek who is now attempting a world record by rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, a feet never completed by man. No doubt he has lots of this Matcha Protein Powder to keep him going! Jagasilk also has been working with The Edge Food Energy at developing matcha power bars which were also sampled at the festival.

The biggest change at Jagasilk is that they dropped their Organic matcha line from Harimaen Estate (see Crane Flies Over the Clouds, Nirvana, and Butterfly). One can only speculate that this was a business decision because that line of matcha was quite good and very popular here in Victoria. With a small no fuss announcement last spring on the Jagasilk blog, they launched their new line of single cultivar matcha. They now receive their matcha from tea farmer Mr. Fujioka of Wazuka, located in the traditional Uji growing region of Japan. Jagasilk claims that they are the first wholesale distributor of Mr. Fujioka's matcha.

Jagasilk has cleverly named the three matcha they now carry in their typical Westcoast fashion- Eagle, Raven, and Owl - all local wildlife that has special spiritual significance to the first nation peoples here on the West coast. One sampled Eagle and Raven at the festival. They were all whisked up in a traditional bowl then poured into Jagasilk's signature mini mason jar teacups- drawing influence off another popular Westcoast trend. The matcha was interesting, no doubt good matcha that seemed maybe a bit more vegetel, grassy, and maybe more heavy, but didn't seem to be filled with as much of the interesting high notes that gave their old line from Harimaen its character.

Hope to spend some time to get to know these teas in the near future and give them another chance with more controlled perimeters here at home. Either way it was nice to catch up with old faces at the Victoria Tea Festival.

Also see this review of Greg Demmons' Meditative Korean tea ceremony at this years Victoria Tea Festival if you missed it.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Victoria Tea Festival Review: Greg Demmons' Mediative Korean Tea Ceremony

While, there always seems to be something at each annual Victoria Tea Festival that makes it unique. This year there were, at least, a few things which made the festival worth a visit. There was one exhibitor which was really impressive and where one had spent the majority of time at (more on that later). Met a few fans of MattCha's Blog which was also really nice and said "hi" to some of the festival veterans as well. The presenters David Caudwell and Greg Demmons were both extraordinarily good. With a special interest in Korean tea, Greg Demmons' performance of his Meditative Korean Tea Ceremony was the highlight.

Greg could be spotted in the busy crowd of the festival before his presentation walking through the crowds in full Confucian Joseon Dynasty governmental official hanbok. For his presentation he was doing a demonstration of the version of Korean tea ceremony which his master taught him from a modest mountain teashop on a mountain in a city just outside Seoul. He received the blessing of his master to preform the ceremony which he planned to do for the first time in North America at the Victoria Tea Festival.

Towering much taller than almost any other Korean man, Greg humbly set his tea setting in preparation for the ceremony. He mindfully brought the wooden slab with covered teaware out after placing the cusion down. Then he brought out the warm water kettle and waited to be anounced, to start his presentation.

He gave a simple synopsis of the Korean Tea Ceremony explaining that normally he would not ware the formal clothing and that the ceremony would include a longer duration of mediation than what will be demonstrated today. He said that the movements of the Korean tea ceremony (the purpose of the movements and the speed of the movements) are not only aesthetically pleasing but that they are also done for the purpose of getting the water to an appropriate temperature. He then went on to preform his meditative tea ceremony...

He moved very deliberately and with such mindful concentration. Those in the audience marveled at the beauty of this movements. They weren't overly exaggerated, drawn out, or artificial nor were they matter of fact, lazy, or without exact intent. Every movement was done to make a wonderful bowl of matcha (Kor: malcha). Deliberate, soft and graceful- one of the best Korean powdered tea ceremonies one has witnessed. Some of the hand movements, especially with the white hemp cloth was extraordinary.

After the performance Greg took some questions from the crowd. He answered all questions true to the Korean Way of Tea even squeezing in a quote from the Saint of Korean tea, Cho'Ui. He explained that in Korea there are no lineages of masters or families with strict rules. He also explained how each person slightly changes their ceremony. He also answered questions on the intent of the person preparing the tea- they are placing all their energy, their qi, into the bowl of tea. They then transmit their intent to those receiving the tea through the performance but mostly through the tea - this is the Korean Way of Tea.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Two Korean Tea Vendors Describe Balhyocha (aka. Hwang Cha, Korean Yellow Tea)

Thought that readers of this blog would enjoy these two great articles from two Korean vendor blogs. They both deal with a difficult topic, describing what exactly is balhyocha?

In this article by Arthur Park of Morning Crane Tea, he covers the confusion and ambiguity of Korean tea naming conventions as it pertains to balhyocha. Interestingly, he draws comparisons to very very rare tea productions such as Korean oolongs (such as this tea) and Korean red teas (such as this tea).

In this article by Gabriel Furnari of Jirisan Tea Company, he covers an important point- that teas in East Asia are named not by the colour of their leaves but by the colour of the liquor. He explains how this naming convention pertains to balhyocha. He also goes over some details of the production of balhyocha as well.

For more information on these topics and other points not covered in the articles please see the detailed three part series of posts on balhyocha:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Sunday, February 3, 2013

2012 Soa Tea Certified Organic Boseong Balhyocha

A few weeks ago one had sampled a green tea from the Boseong grower, Soa Tea. Today, as promised, the balhyocha from the same producer is under some serious enjoyment. Gabe Fife, fellow Korean tea lover and blogger of the Korean Dojang, had purchased a large quantity of this tea. He felt that for its price, the Soa Tea balhyocha cannot be beat. This organically certified tea from the popular Boseong tea growing region sells for 9,000 KRW (approx $9.00 USD) for 40g, a very good value. The water is boiling in the clay brazier, it has not been sunny in a week or so, it is the perfect time to see what this tea has to offer...

The slightly curled, black dry leaves release an odour of deep cherry wood with soft, deep fruity apricot notes underneath. These leaves are piled into the small warm teapot.

The first infused liquor pours a browny-orange colour. It starts with robust, woody deep tastes which reach into the mid-throat. The tea evolves quickly in the mouth and finishes off with spicy-cinnamon and persimmon. These gradually trail off as well leaving the taste of smooth apricot on the tongue. The mouthfeel is full and throaty but still light, a characteristic of balhyocha.

The second infusion has a distinct cherry wood start which immediately grips the mid-throat. There are deep oxidized notes of deep forests then suggestions of sesame and vague tangerine and apricot. The mouthfeel coats the throat and is mainly felt in the back of the mouth. Cinnamon-persimmon notes are the last to be detected a minute or so after swallowing. These tastes appear in the sandy-pasty mouthfeel in the back of the mouth.

The third infusion has even more cinnamon-persimmon. This infusion has a smoother profile with these distinct fruity notes stretching through the taste profile. The deeper-woodsier tastes tastes linger underneath- sweet fruit in a soft pasty mouthfeel. The fourth infusion is much the same. The chaqi is very light, soft, and smooth. It travels gingerly throughout ones body.

The fifth infusion is more dry-wood-bark tastes with the lighter fruity notes sitting softy below. There is also a very soft sour citrus note that appears now as well adding another layer of simple complexity. The mouthfeel becomes slightly more coarse and drying now.

The sixth infusions smooths out with woody-bark over soft, sour citrus undertones. The taste is much more simple now. The mouthfeel is still very full.

The seventh infusion is much the same as the sixth now maybe a bit more fruity as the dry notes smooth even further. Still lots of depth and mouthfeel. Even under longer steeps late into the tea session there is still much flavour to enjoy. The fruit notes are very faint under dry wood flavours in this eighth infusion.

The tea is put to an 24 hour steeping to leach out what is left. Strong cherry wood varnish like tastes mingle with very distinct orange-grapefruit tastes the taste has a rose and rosehip-like flavour which overlaps with the wood taste. Interesting tea.

Thanks again Gabe.