Tempting green tea with a tasty twistBy Jason KimFor many of us, green tea is part of our daily routine. With the little tea bags readily available next to instant coffee mix in nearly all offices, it’s one of the most commonly consumed types of tea around.
It’s also good for us.
Although it’s still a little early, for those looking for a brief spring getaway, Boseong County is an interesting place to learn about green tea and traces of modern history.
A popular destination for families and couples, Boseong is near the southern tip of the peninsula in South Jeolla Province, and the region is home to a number of breathtaking green tea plantations.
The area’s proximity to the sea, high altitude and fertile land provides the perfect grooming ground for green tea.
“Green tea has long been a part of our county’s history, dating back to before the Joseon period [1392-1910]. But the growth of large-scale commercial farming of green tea began with Daehan Plantation in 1939 during the Japanese colonial era [1910-1945],” said Song Ki-ho of Boseong County’s Culture and Tourism department.
“Today, there are 1,300 green tea farms in total, taking up approximately 1,048 hectares, which produce as much as 40 percent of the nation’s green tea,” added Song.
Green tea leaves start to sprout in early April with the first batch of leaves picked near the end of the month. The last harvest of the season is done near the end of August.
One of the most popular destinations in the area is Daehan Plantation. Established in 1939 by a Japanese businessman, current owner Jang Young-seob purchased the run-down plantation and the land in the surrounding area in 1957.
The first thing visitors will notice upon visiting the plantation is the row of Japanese cedar trees lining the road leading into the plantation.
The main attraction of the visit to plantation would be the green tea farm. Roughly 5.8 million green tea trees are planted in row upon row stretching across the scenic hills.
“The road with the rows of Japanese cedars stretches for one kilometer [0.62 miles], and our visitors seem to like it,” said Ju Yong-ro, the factory manager at Daehan Plantation.
“Our plantation went through some tough times during the 1970s but things began to pick up during the 1990s as people began to recognize the health benefits of green tea. These days, with the economic recession, our sales have slumped again somewhat,” added Ju.
According to Ju, green tea leaves of the highest quality are picked near the end of April, mostly on the 20th.
“The early harvest produces very soft and mild flavored green tea when brewed. It lacks the bitter flavor of the later harvests. While the bitterness is indicative of tea that is better for our health, flavor is very important when grading the quality of green tea,” added Ju.
There are plenty of foods made with a hint of green tea aroma, but one of the region’s specialties is a twist on a Korean favorite: samgyeopsal or pork belly strips from pigs fed on nothing but green tea leaves.
“We have mollusk soup and grilled gizzard shards, but visitors to Boseong County should try green tea samgyeopsal. Since the pigs are fed only green tea, they are leaner and [the pork] doesn’t smell as much as your average samgyeopsal,” added Song.
With green tea such a big part of Boseong County’s culture and economy, it’s only natural that an annual festival is held in its name. The Boseong Green Tea Festival, entering its 35th year, is to be held from May 8 to 12.
The festival allows visitors to participate in numerous hands-on activities, including green tea picking and tea ceremonies. Exhibitions and performances celebrating green tea will be held and food and cosmetics containing tea can be found. For serious green tea lovers, high quality green tea can be purchased at an affordable price.
For more information, contact Boseong County at www.boseong.go.kr (061-852-2181) or Daehan Plantation at www.dhdawon.com (061-852-2593).
“Visitors to Boseong should try the samgyeopsal, which is leaner since the pigs are fed only green tea.”