Korean green tea isn't something you see every day, so naturally my interest was piqued when I first read about it. For those of you who don't know (which I'm guessing will be most to all of you), here is a quick introduction to Korean green tea, from someone who knows very little about what he is talking about.
There are three grades of Korean greens: Woojeon/Ujeon, Saejak/Sejak, and Joongjak/Jungjak. Ujeon is the highest grade and the first flush, Sejak is the second highest grade and the second flush, etc. You may notice that even Jungjak tea is very expensive, which is in no small part due to the fact that little is produced. Because of this, Korean green tea is rare even in Korea, at least relative to the popularity of Japanese and Chinese teas in their respective countries.
The best teas are produced on the southern slopes of Jiri mountain, though there are several other tea-producing regions in Korea, notably Boseong, which is a major tourist attraction.
I know very little about tea production methods, but from what I gather, most Korean green tea is produced more like Chinese greens than Japanese greens, except for the rare Jeung-cha which involves steaming, as is done in Japanese green tea production.
There is plenty more to be said about the rich Korean tea tradition, and if you are interested in learning more I recommend reading "The Korean Way of Tea: An Introduction," by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Hong Kyeong-Hee. In addition to plenty of gorgeous photos, this book contains information on many aspects of the Korean tea tradition, including the lovely Korean tea ceremony.
Vendor: Shan Shui Teas (Product page)
Price: $20.00 (40g) / $5.75 (10g)
And the tea itself? Well, from my very limited experience, I can say it's pretty good. I definitely need to play around with the parameters a bit, as there is very little information out there on how to brew Korean greens. I have a couple others to review as well, so the progress of my own learnings will be reflected in those future posts.
The dry leaf is a unique and lovely grey-green color, and has a rather muted aroma of sweetness and pastries.
This tea tastes a bit like both Chinese greens and Japanese greens. It has the feel and rich sweetness of a Japanese green, and the mildly lemony and slightly toasty characteristics of a Chinese green. (Note that my Chinese green tea experience is also very limited, but I think I'm right here.) It's a great combo, and is a refreshing change if you're in the habit of drinking other greens.
The wet leaf unfurls to a bright green color, and the leaves are small and whole. Purty!
I think, like the last tea, this one needs to be drunk closer to harvest time. It's quite good, but the flavor isn't as robust as I would like for its price. I'd like to try it again after the next harvest.