Origin: South Korea
Year: 2008 (assumed)
Vendor: Hankook Tea Company (Product page)
Price: $19.99 (30g)
I was very excited to see Hankook Tea Company offer Korean matcha on their site. I love Japanese matcha, so naturally I wanted to see what its Korean sibling was like. The price seemed good— it is pretty much right in the middle when compared to Japanese ceremonial grade matcha— especially considering the high prices usually commanded by Korean teas due to rarity and the domestic market.
Sadly, this example didn't live up to my expectations. The problem is not that Korean teas are inherently bad; they certainly aren't, as evidenced by the lovely sample of Ddok Cha I received from Matt. I imagine the problem is that very little of the good stuff makes it outside Korea, even more so than in China and Japan, probably in no small part due to the small size of the Korean tea industry. This is all unfounded speculation though, so take it with a grain of salt.
Anyway, about the tea. The flavor is fairly typical for matcha, though a bit on the tart side and more astringent than I usually like. However, it does seem to have some strong "cha qi"; I broke into a sweat soon after drinking it. Compared to the other matcha I have on hand, the Wakamatsu-no-Mukashi from Ippodo, the Gamnong matcha didn't do well. To be fair though, these are definitely in different weight classes; the Japanese matcha is quite a bit more expensive, and that's without considering what a product of similar quality would cost in Korea. Here you can see the two matcha side-by-side.
The Wakamatsu-no-Mukashi (right) is slightly greener (also older, for what it's worth), and has a more fluffy/ less grainy texture than the Gamnong (left). Both samples here were sifted through a basket strainer.
This isn't a bad matcha. It's just not that great, and not different enough from better-valued Japanese matcha (Wow, did I really just say Japanese matcha is a good value?) to justify buying a whole tin. Let me know if you would like to try some for free though; I'd be happy to send some samples.
Face / Off
4 days ago