The soothing power of green fields of tea

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The soothing power of green fields of tea

Seeing a tea plantation shrouded in early-morning mist is quite a sight ― the true definition of landscape art.
The tea fields of Boseong, South Jeolla province, offer aesthetic pleasures to Seoulites used to the hectic life of the city. You don’t actually need to drink tea at Boseong, or even know anything about the formalities involved in serving it. Just looking at the fields compensates for the long trip you’ve made from Seoul to get there.
Some Koreans criticize Boseong’s tea fields, saying they’ve become a sort of tea theme park. And it’s partly true. For one thing, the entrance is heavily trafficked every weekend, especially this time of year. Some tea enthusiasts criticize the quality of Boseong tea leaves, saying they’re too Japanese.
Others say Boseong’s tea is overpriced, or fertilized with too many chemicals. Most Koreans, however, still love to visit Boseong every May. You will understand what I mean if you look out over the field early in the morning.
Boseong produces 40 percent of the country’s green tea. It was set up in 1939 under Japanese colonial rule, and became a commercial tea plantation in 1957. Most types of tea at Boseong are Chinese in origin.
Daehan Dawon (061-853-2593), the largest tea field in Boseong, began charging parking fees last month; it now costs 2,000 won to park for the day. You can also check out the guided package tours through Woori Yeonhaengsa at (02) 733-0882 and Yetdol Yeohaengsa at (02) 2266-1233.
On the other side of the peninsula, in the city of Hadong, South Gyeongsang province, there is a famous tea plantation in a village called Hwagae, known for its sumptuous flowers. In the spring, the road leading from Hwagae market to Ssangyesa temple is covered in cherry blossoms. Soon after the cherry blossoms disappear, they are replaced by green tea leaves.
The villagers of Hwagae use tea as both a drink and a medicine. Mothers brew green tea for their sick children, and jakseol tea, one of the more expensive types grown in the region, is still used as a cold remedy.
Hwagae village is the birthplace of tea plantations in Korea. The place is often mentioned in the historical text known as Samkukji, or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Just behind the Ssangyesa temple are thousands of green tea plants surrounded by bamboo forest. They are called juknocha, because the tea leaves are fed with bamboo dew.
The scenery in Hwagae is not as impressive as Boseong’s. The Hadong plantation simply looks like a grass field. The tea’s taste, however, is quite unique.
There are more than 100 tea fields in the Hadong area. Nokhyang Dawon (055-083-1243) is among the most popular. Expect friendly servers who are more than willing to explain the varieties of green tea.
Wild green tea grows in Boseong at Jinggwang Dawon (061-857-5064). Customers must order their tea from Jinggwang in advance; a package of tea meant to last a year can cost up to 2 million won ($1,700).

by Sohn Min-ho
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