by Cassandra Vincent
The worldwide nature of tea culture awes me. I find it exciting to learn about other cultures through their unique way of tea expression. In that spirit I took my first tasting workshop in Korean tea recently given by Hankook Tea at the Tea lovers Festival in CA. I learned many things I had not known so here we go!
The first tea in Korea dates back to 42 AD – hello! That’s a long tea culture indeed especially compared to Britain and America’s first tastes in the 17th century.
Dagi is the general Korean term for teaware. The traditional Korean tea tray holds the following items:
Cooling bowl – boiled water is put into this vessel first to cool it to temperatures best suited to the tea – A great idea. I had been using my own version of this as I do not currently have a boiler with temperature setting. It is great!
Tea caddy – which holds an amount of tea for just a few days
Waste Water bowl – the catch all for all discarded items during tea making like used leaves, used water, leftover tea – a great way to keep your tea tray orderly
Lid Holder – a place to put lids to keep them clean
Teapot – but of course! These have a handle that protrudes from the base rather than a loop design
Teacup – the cups we used were without handles
Coaster – wooden is apparently most common now
And of course if making matcha there are the matcha specific tools – matcha bowl, whisk and whisk holder. Korea, which shares many Japanese interests, is also a matcha drinking culture.
We were told that many of the steeped beverages in Korea are actually herbal tisanes rather than camellia sinensis. But we did begin with an actual tea - Hwangcha – a partially oxidized tea that after processing is wrapped in linen while still moist resulting in humidity that increases the temperature resulting in natural oxidation. It is like its own category of tea as it is made in a way unique from other categories. Though sometimes also referred to as Balhyocha, that is a word that encompasses any edible that has been fermented in any way. A more accurate word would be “bu-bun-balhyocha” which means partially fermented. I know, I know, tea is so complicated! But what did it taste like? I thought the Hankook Hwangcha we tasted was light & winey and worth drinking again. Bear in mind your tongue may tell a different tale. Tea is a very individual experience after all.
The other two tastings were of herbals: Mulberry leaf, which reminded me of a biscuit with a fruity flowery scent and Hydrangea leaf which was naturally sweet and reminded me of stevia. Both tisanes have a variety of health benefits & apparently Hydrangea is used in both blends and cooking.
I wish you ongoing adventures in great tea!
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