Why korean green tea? I was just thinking about my affection to korean tea this morning. It might be maybe because its processing is very similar to making the material for pu-erh tea. It grows in the mountains, it is processed by hands, it is semi wild, it is organic. Also refering to its taste it is a fusion of chinesse and japanesse green tea. Both I like but even more I like to have their characteristics included into one tea.
Opening a pack of fresh green tea this morning brought to my nose strong a fresh fragrance of far away green slopes of Jiri mountains in Korea.
I came across this small tea garden from Hadong distr, Jiri mountain by accident. I messaged a guy from over there back in 2011 asking for samples and got no answer. Three years later, only this April in 2014 he wrote me back if I am still interested. I said yes and did not hear of him for another month. The box from Korea arrived. Tasting the samples one by one I knew that these are the teas I was looking for.
The tea farm turnt out to be one of the oldest and with the longest tea making trandition in Hadong. Only 10 people are managing the small ‘company’ and producing organic teas. All by hands. They are called Jukro Tea.
I tasted many of their teas and decided to take three of their latest picks. The names of the teas refer mainly to the size of the leaves, rather than the time or season it was picked.
Sejak is from the first flush (The “se” in “sejak” means “thin”, referring to the size of the leaf; “jak” is short). Jungjak (jung = middle/medium) is the second flush and Daejak (dae = big) is the third flush.
There are sometimes only several days among picking of Sejak, Jungjak and Daejak teas. The sooner the picking happens the more expensive the tea. The very first teas picked in the spring are also the most tasty ones.
So I will not go to any more ‘technical’ detail as the tea is about tea. The final taste and liking it depends on each of us. The offerings are perfectly fresh and packed directly on the tea farm. Just open a pack and enjoy the scent that only honest hands can make. This is what they say
No, we actully do consider Ujeon(우전) as first flush too. Flushes and sizes are not really seperate things, though. While the names do refer to the size of the leaves, they correspond to the time of the year anyways. For example, Sejak(세작) are leaves that have not fully opened, thus their appearance like sparrow’s tongue. They are harvested between the “rainfall” and “enter summer”.
To understand the flushes of Korean green tea, it is crucial to understand time period they are harvested too. Tea is harvested several times between April and July. Two more important dates to consider is the “rainfall” and “enter summer”. Rainfall (곡우) is April 20th. This would be the time when spring rain fall, and make the land rich for the crops. “Enter summer” (입하) is May 5th, and it is the day that we consider that summer has started. Ujeon (우전) is harvested before the “rainfall” (곡우). Sejak is between the “rainfall” (곡우) and “enter summer” (입하). Joongjak (중작) is during the middle of May, after “enter summer” (입하). Daejak (대작) is harvested just after Joongjak (중작), but before June starts. Between June and July, “Yeop-cha” (엽차) is harvested. Now, this is a new piece of infomation. “Yeop-cha” (엽차) is considered to be the lowest in quality and can be often seen commonly. Some consider this one as fourth (last) flush, while some consider Daejak (대작) as the last flush. Cheaper Joongjak (중작) and Yeop-cha (엽차) seems to be the most common in public.
(Just cultural stuff: “Rainfall” (곡우) and “enter summer” (입하) are dates traditionally used by our ancestors. They are part of “24 solar terms”. Most people, especially the younger ones, probably do not know this cultural aspect well or at all.)
Also, the earlier the tea is harvested, it is considered (generally) to have better quality. Probably, that’s why the names could be also considered as grades. The reason why the dates matter, is because after Joongjak (중작), the leaves “harden” (no longer soft as young leaves). The taste just becomes more astringent and full, though. The concept of high quality different from Darjeeling. Ujeon (우전) is considered the “best” because it is rare, and the taste is very soft. However, Joongjak (중작) is known to be the one where you can enjoy the distinct taste of green tea, and have similar “quality” as Ujeon (우전) and Sejak (세작).
The production of tea is divided between Duk-eum (덖음) and Jeung-jae (증제). Duk-eum (덖음) is the type where tea is “roasted”, and Jeung-jae (증제) requires steam.
There are several ways to name green tea. By colour, season harvested, the way of production, where it was grown etc. Still, Ujeon (우전), Sejak (세작), Joongjak (중작), Daejak (대작), and maybe Yeop-cha (엽차) are the most commonly used. If we say they are the noun, way of production or other details would be more like an adjective to these nouns.
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