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KOREAN TEA

  Snowy Korean Tea FieldsTea cultivation and consumption enjoys a long tradition in Korea. Already widespread by the 7th century, tea was initially popularized by Buddhist monks who frequently returned from their studies in China with the wisdom of the seon (Zen) meditation and tea they had experienced there.

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 spread the word with the country’s first modern, full-time study of tea called The Korean Way of Tea. His manifesto on the preparation of high-quality Panyaro (“Dew of Enlightening Wisdom”) highlights the precise and demanding method ofjeungcha developed by the master himself. A cup of true Panyaro tea deserves the utmost respect and attention: 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 and, finally, savor the liquor’s lingering aftertaste and unique mouthfeel. 

Korean Tea CeremonyAnother aspect of Korean teas’ exacting and precise cultivation is the precise time of plucking, governed by 24 seasonal dates based on the movement of the sun. Woojean, for example, denotes first-flush leaves plucked before April 22. What follows are sejak variants, featuring slightly larger leaves, with all later harvests falling into the stronger-flavored daejak category, such as our Maia’s Pick. The entire production is done by hand with meticulous care, demanding a sensitive touch and correct timing. Freshly harvested young shoots are gently fired in great iron cauldrons heated by wood-fuelled fires, adding to each vintage’s unique hue, fragrance and flavor. While green teas make up the bulk of Korean tea consumption, the nation’s distinctive roast aromas lend themselves extraordinarily well to fully oxidized black teas, our P & T Woori being a prime example. image credits: Republic of Korea / Morgan Schmorgan