It was a short spring visit and a dream that became true. Maybe I should say it was too short. But with so many experiences, when Cho Hak asked me to share our “adventures” with readers of his Morning Crane Blog I was aware that it would be hard to find where to start, what to say. …How can I share the impressions from the mountains? How can I express the wind in a bamboo forest in which you can smell the hint of the sea, fragrances of tea or smiling people?
I fell in love with Korean tea a few years ago and from the beginning I felt that as the Korean peninsula stretches between China and Japan so also Korean tea lies between Chinese and Japanese teas. That it is related to both but unusual and distinctive. When I enjoyed those ‘first’ experiences of NokCha I was really curious about what was behind it. I felt that there were not only different tastes and fragrances but also an energy in this tea; and that it grows from the difference in culture.
When we, my partner Miroslava Randová and I, were invited in 2008 to participate on Mungyeong Chassabal Festival I was happy. Happy, not only because of all the great things that Cho Hak had described in few of his posts but I also saw it as a natural opportunity to learn about the tea for which my love was growing all those years. In 2008 after the festival we visited Boseong area and with help from Cho Hak we had the opportunity to not only see tea plantations but also to make tea by ourselves in small a family “tea workshop”. In my mind I can still smell the freshness of that tea!
Many Korean teas I have drunk during years come from the Jiri-san area. Very often those teas come with “nice stories” about wild trees, high mountains and the use of a traditional process. Although I am always careful about accepting this kind of story as facts, I felt that the teas from this area are strong, full of energy. So when I realized that I had three days after the festival until I had to leave Korea the decision where to spend those days was easy.
This spring Miroslava was not able to go with me, so my friend Daniel Klásek joined me. He is a tea enthusiast and tea merchant in the Czech Republic so he was more than happy to be at the Teabowl Festival in Mungyeong as well as join me after the festival to see the tea gardens of Jiri-san.
Use Hadong as your main base of exploration. Go to the Hadong Grean Tea Research Center and the Kind people there will likely set up some plantation visits.
In Hadong County there are many places where you can see tea plantation. We visited Hwagye-dong valley. In this valley, around 25km from Hadong, you can find Ssangyaesa temple. Near this temple the first tea seeds were planted in the eighth century and were cared for by monks for centuries.