Green Tea's Korean Cradle Celebrates Brew's History And Prepares for Its Future

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Green Tea's Korean Cradle Celebrates Brew's History And Prepares for Its Future

A monk on a dangerous voyage from China to Korea felt the burden of treasures hidden in the lining of his robe. Alert for traps, he finally arrived safely in Korea. The monk, Daeryeom, went straight to court and presented to King Heungdeok the smuggled goods - tea-plant seeds.

The legendary event that gave Hadong County its fame for green tea happened more than a thousand years ago during the Shilla dynasty. Now the area in South Kyongsang province is famous for cultivated tea plants. It is also one of the few areas in Asia where tea plants grow wild.

About 150,000 tourists gathered in Hadong County last Thursday to Sunday to celebrate the sixth Hadong Mountain Dew Tea Festival. Translators were available for expatriates, several of whom went to the festival on a joint venture between the Royal Asiatic Society and Visit Korea Year 2001.

Organizers recreated much of the tea experience for tourists, from picking tea leaves to cooking and crushing them. Tourists could watch, or don gloves and participate. "It's hot, sweaty and backbreaking work," said one woman crouched over a fire.

Plenty of green tea was available for drinking. The exquisite pottery used to hold the green tea was also displayed, next to an open area where a potter worked behind a pottery wheel.

On the international scene, green tea is gaining popularity as a hip drink. Sip on green tea, and it shows a touch of class and knowledge. The vocabulary is similar to wine; according to green tea connoisseurs, to enjoy green tea, you must appreciate the color, the smell and then the taste.

Amid the tea revival, Hadong County's reputation for green tea is growing. This was the best attended festival to date, according to organizers.



FOUR TYPES OF GREEN TEA

Green tea leaves sold in Korea are divided into four main categories that can make a world of difference in price. These divisions are based on harvest time. Ujeon tea, the most expensive at 55,000 ($43) to 80,000 won for 100 grams, is picked before April 21. The leaves are young, creating a fine and mild taste. Sejak tea (40,000 to 55,000 won) is picked from April 21 to May 5. Jungjak tea (25,000 to 35,000 won) is harvested until the beginning of June. Daejak tea (15,000 to 30,000 won) is harvested until mid-June and yields the most bitter taste.



by Joe Yong-hee

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