Korea, the forgotten tea nation

Discover the fine teas of the Korean peninsula.

Steeped in history, tea cultivation and consumption enjoys a long tradition in the Asian nation. Already widespread in the 7th century, based on imported tea seeds, tea was initially popularized by Buddhist monks who frequently returned from studies in China with the unique mind-body aligning combination of “seon” (Zen) meditation and tea.

When Buddhism was replaced by Confucianism in the 14th century, tea was temporarily relegated to the sidelines – leading to regions scattered with wild tea trees, especially in the south and on the lower slopes of the Jiri Mountains. During the period of Japanese colonial government (1910-1945), and the associated rule of repression, things took another turn for the worse: Driven into exile, the country’s few remaining monks sought shelter in remote temples, hidden deep in Korea’s mountain ranges, to preserve the tradition and knowledge of tea and pass it on to young disciples who had come to study Buddhism.

Nowadays, tea culture and cultivation is once again thriving in Korea, not least of all due to the “great restorer of tea” Hyodang who literally spread the word with the country’s first modern, fulltime study of tea called The Korean Way of Tea. His manifesto on the preparation of high-quality Panyaro (the “Dew of Enlightening Wisdom”) highlights the precise and demanding method of jeungcha developed by the master himself.

Other aspects that govern the exact and perfect cultivation of Korean teas include the precise time of plucking, governed by twenty-four seasonal dates based on the movement of the sun. While Woojean denotes first flush leaves plucked before April 22, the following Sejak variants feature slightly larger leaves and all other harvests fall into the stronger Daejak category. The entire, and entirely manual, production process is based on the utmost care, a sensitive touch and correct timing: Freshly harvested young shoots are gently fired over wood fires in great iron cauldrons, adding to each vintage’s unique hue, fragrance and flavor – which should then be savored in the right order.

After all, a cup of true Panyaro tea deserves the respect and attention of our senses: Marvel at the clarity of its color, inhale its natural scent, allow a few drops to hit your taste buds, taste the full aromatic spectrum in the throat and, finally, savor the liquor’s lingering aftertaste and unique mouthfeel.

To spread the word and taste, P & T offers a selection of entirely hand-picked, hand-fired and hand-processed Korean specialties:

Sejak: Roasted multiple times, this first flush green tea delights the palate with smooth sweetness and an odd, yet oddly enticing, sensation of both hot and cold.

Maia’s Pick: A green tea with just the right balance between Chinese-style baked aromas, Japanese vegetal accents and typical Korean roasted notes.

Woori: This highly fermented black tea delicacy can be infused up to seven times!

Jukro Vintage: The “vintage style“ treatment refreshes a previous harvest with an extra roasting – a process that yields exceptionally expressive black teas with an extra kick.

Image by Maryland GovPics