Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hong So Sul, making Good Korean tea for 50 yrs.

An interesting article From Segye Korean Newspaper. Regarding modern Korean tea, roughly translated for your viewing pleasure:

Hong So Sul, master of Korean green tea, has been spending more than 49 years to make good tea in Korea. He devoted himself at Hwagae market and Hadong where most of Korean green tea is cultivated. When he first started tea cultivation in 1960, there were many tea farms in Hwagae but no one understood its true value. Hong was the one who realized the value of the tea and helped the farmers earn high income from tea farming.

Hwagae Jae Da, the tea that Hong is producing in Hwagae, was selected as the best tea in 1995 and 2001 by Korea Tea Association and won silver medal at the World Tea Competition held in China in 2001. Besides these, he was awarded with more than 10 times for his green tea. Now more than 70 years old, he still insists on steaming nine times and rubbing nines times all by hands. Korean persimmon leaf tea is what he first developed. He became a Bamboo dew tea production master and was awarded in recognition for his distinguished work.

Born in KyungBook, he went to Japan with his father at 2 years old. He came in contact with Japanese tea culture until he turned 17 and came back to Korea. He was 27 when his garment business failed and lost everything within 3 years. One woman who was supposed to pay him back for some garment gave him some green tea instead of the money she owned. He realized there's green tea in Korea as well.

He went to SaChun to produce green tea as knowing the value of green tea in Japan, but soon he was disappointed by the small size of the wild tea farms. He went to HwaGae immediately when He heard there are many large tea farms. He recalls when he found an old man from China, who makes fermented green tea for his own family, he was so glad. He started running his own tea factory in HwaGae and producing and selling wild green tea. He also educated people trying to spread his knowledge about Korean tea. As a result, after 46 years right now, 1940 farmhouses are producing 2134 tons of wild tea leaves in 931ha, making 431mil(korean won) income per year.

In the "book of tea" by Luk Yu (Tang Dynasty), it says the best tea trees are from between cliff rocks. The wild tea trees in HwaGae grow up between cliff rocks that goes around Jiri Mountains and SumJin River. They are beloved by tea drinkers because of its color and deep taste. He is recognized by his best quality green tea produced with his traditional skill by hands. He and his son's family cultivate 33000m(2) tea farms and produce 150 tons of green tea and other Korean traditional teas. Now his achievement became the province's specialty product, the town supports a Green tea Development Organization. They organize the national annual green tea festival. As a president of the organization, Hong says, many farmers are having hard time due to WTO, but we have no worries about tea because Korean tea is high quality tea with good taste and fragrance. He says Japanese & Chinese teas are large markets so it's more difficult to produce organic teas but it is possible for Korean tea because it has smaller scale market and it will raise the value of the tea. That makes it possible to compete with others teas.

Now he concentrates on handing on tea cultures to visitors at tea school next to his own tea factory. He advised that we should produce and value (中雀) & (大雀) medium/large bird's tongue more, not just high quality tea like (雨前茶) pre-rain so they can all have competition to each other and it will make all teas as universal drinks.


Rich said...

Hey Toki, that is a really interesting article, I rarely hear the stories behind the production of Korean teas. Do you know where I would be able to find his teas in Seoul? Or for that matter, would you happen to know where in Seoul I'd be able to get my hands on some quality green and ddok teas? I am stopping over for 2 days this winter and it's my first time there - would like to pick up something nice.


toki said...

Thanks for stopping by RTEA. Here is the site for amazing wild tea in Hadong:

or if you are in Seoul, do ck out InSa Dong which sort of a tea market... There is a place call "May Flower" in one of those narrow alley. Good luck, Toki

Rich said...

Thanks a lot for the awesome info. Your blog is really cool and your pictures are fantastic. I'll let you know if I can find my way to the right shops and if I pick up something really nice, I'll send you over a sample!


toki said...

Thanks in advance RTEA! Have a wonderful trip. T

yumcha said...

Thanks for the article. I miss good Korean tea. I really miss InSaDong and shopping in Seoul

Mossgarden said...

Thanks for a wonderful article. I recently became Chinese tea lover and found this blog. It was enlightening to know that Korea produces such a good quality green tea as I, as a Korean born in Japan and currently living in NY,never knew that.

toki said...

Shopping over drinking Yumcha! To or Not to : )

Thanks for stopping by Mossgarden. Tea tradition in Korea are colorful and truthful. A gem which I am still trying to learn.... Seems you are also in the Big Apple? Hope to share a cup with you soon. Toki

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