It's was quite a busy weekend, my brother-in-law's wedding and Mother's day on Sunday. Since my in-laws are Korean, the wedding was conducted in Korean and 97% of the guests were Korean. So what can I learn from a Korean wedding? Of course, the nature subjects of my choice were korean art, pottery and tea. A close friend of my wife is moving back to Seoul by the end of June, whose husband's family has a vacation house in Jeju island (The island of green tea). I'd think he might know one or two things about korean tea and pottery, since his families fly there every weekends. "I am learning about Onggi." I said. "Onggi? what kind of onggi? for what?" He replied. "Kimchi Onggi, those big ones...." I continued. "Onggi means small jar with cover, not those big ones." The conversation kind of ended there... to my surprise, most of younger generations tend to lean towards Japanese or Western culture, rather than digging up deep to their own. The words, Edo style tea bowl, JakSul Cha or Onggi don't have any meaning to them comparing to the older generation... or perhaps I am just too boring to talk about pottery in a wedding?
From my trip to the deep mountain and old temples in southern Korea, there is one necessity which old Korean culture can't do without. Fermented food is a huge part of this ancient culture, without it this nation wouldn't have been able to sustain it's cold long winter season. Onggi is like a fridge or food market of the old times, learning the art of this essential piece of daily utensil could open a direct path to its culture. Kimchi, bean paste (Doenjang), pickled veggie or seafood, sauces and even tea are fermented in these kind of covered jar outdoors. The normal size is around 3-5 feet in height, and made with clay more or less like Yixing zisha. A plastic type of clay which is usually built or molded rather than thrown.
Through some research and links, I found an young Artist who practices this traditional art in the US. Adam Field was kind enough to open his door to my persistent, questions-filled, curious heart. Over a couple of emails and phone conversations, I had found another sincere artist through the faith of tea. "Have you tried aging water through your Onggis?" I asked, "They might change the taste and lighten the water for making tea..." I continue: " Perhaps if you age tea in it, it will promote healthy aging also." We were both fascinated with each other's knowledge, and there are something beautiful and fruitful to be shared among us. Mr. Field took 10 months last year to learn the art of Onggi in southern Korea, and brought back the seeds of this lost tradition to the states for further development. This honest and respectful journey had planted a very positive seed in my mind for his dedication, which I truly can appreciate. That is exactly what I did for my passion for tea, if you don't travel and paid respect to the tradition, how could one truly experience the meaning of the Art?
Mr. Field will be conducting an Onggi tour to Korea this coming fall, following a trip to yixing. I would love to join this historical adventure if my schedule allows.
Leaves: 1. From which vendor, farmer, source: Teamaster 2. Date of Harvest: 1980 3. Elevation: High. Guessing 1200-1500+ 4. Soil based: Soil/Rock 5. Which area: Dong Ding 6. Varietal. Hung Shui 7. Fired level: Traditional 8. Bush age: young 9. Grade: 1st 10. breathing tea before brewing: 3 days
Brewing vessel, water: 1. Water source: Poland Spring 2. Aged or fresh: 5 days 3. How you boil your water: Charcoal 4. Temp. for the first 5 steeping: Rolling boil, rinse, 1-5th brew. 5. What kind of brewing vessel: New Huang Long Mt. Purple zisha 1175 fired. 180ml 6. What kind of cup to drink from: Tall, 1900's Japanese China
Brewing Parameter: Amount: 4g Rinse time: Flash Set time: 30 sec infusing time: 15 sec/15s/20s then add 30 sec Height of water pouring: stomach level Hitting spots: side, till rolling leaves.
Result of the brew: Color: clear, pale yellowish amber Aroma: Maltose candy, Ocean, floral, minerals Texture: full, clean fresh spring water Mouth feel: sweet, roasted seaweed, floral, grain and fragrance malt. Not veggie and grassy at all. Effects of the brew: lingering long sweetness, clean and refine smoothness, ocean breeze and High Mountain mist. How many brews: 10+
Weather: Drinking time of the day: early Sunday Afternoon High/low humidity: 75s% hum, low 60s temp Rainy or sunny? Cloudy. mild and cool and light rain
End notes: This is so far the best among the 5 packs. A high quality, high mountain oolong. Clean, refreshing and comforting. I am enjoying this enormously, taking my time and thinking of the high mountain tea fields in Dong Ding. The dry moss smell rising from the rock next to a clean creek. Every characters I long for on a good quality high mountain tea, and the Maltose Candy! That hits my childhood memory. Thanks again Stéphane for such amazing samples.
As you can see there is a small sample next to the teamaster pack, which is from Brian Kirbis. It's breathing in my small onggi jar at the moment, and I can't wait for this Sunday to open it up.
Leaves: 1. From which vendor, farmer, source: Teamaster 2. Date of Harvest: Spring 1990 3. Elevation: Low 300-500m 4. Soil based: Rocky 5. Which area: San Hsia 6. Varietal. Luanze 7. Fired level: Medium/light 8. Bush age: young 9. Grade: 1st 10. breathing tea before brewing: 7 days
Brewing vessel, water: 1. Water source: Poland Spring 2. Aged or fresh: - 3. How you boil your water: Electric Water Boiler 4. Temp. for the first 3 steeping: Rolling boil, rinse, 1-3rd brew. 5. What kind of brewing vessel: Modern Zhuni/high fired. 180ml 6. What kind of cup to drink from: Eggshell
Brewing Parameter: Amount: 4g Rinse time: Flash Set time: 30 sec infusing time: 15 sec/40s/40s then add 30 sec Height of water pouring: chest level Hitting spots: side, till rolling leaves.
Result of the brew: Color: clear, pale yellowish amber Aroma: floral, metallic, raisins Texture: soft, powdery Mouth feel: sweet, dry fruits, dry pears, vintage pureh Effects of the brew: lingering sweetness, calming. Best brew 2rd. How many brews: 5th
Weather: Drinking time of the day: late afternoon High/low humidity: 40s% hum, low 60s temp Rainy or sunny? Cloudy. mild and cool
End notes: I like the powdery texture and the raisins and dry fruitiness of the brews. Very candy like with refine aging after taste. Leaves are small with metallic sheen, not high fire at all. Looks delicate, but powerful comparing to the size. Could be a first pick, high elevation spring 19 years ago? Just guessing. Enjoyable delights.