Spend Chuseok with family, tea
“My grandfather lived in Hamyang, South Gyeongsang, and every spring, he set out with two cows and his servant. I accompanied him. He would first stop at the tea fields in Hadong and purchase tea after checking the process of harvesting and roasting the leaves. Then he would give one of the cows as the price for the tea. Then he would cross the Seomjin River and visit Mr. Heo, an artist who painted Mount Mudeung. He would share the tea, compose poems and write calligraphy for about a month. He would bring back a few paintings, and present Mr. Heo with several boxes of tea and the remaining cow. Then the three of us would walk back home. I can still visualize the servant carrying the paintings and climbing Mount Jiri.”
Fortunately, I got to have three memories related to tea this year. In June, I had a temple stay at Buseok Temple in Seosan, South Chungcheong. The head monk Ju-gyeong offered me a calming green tea. He said, “The first cup is enjoyed for its aroma, the second for the taste, and the third is enjoyed with the heart.” The taste of the tea at the temple became a comforting memory, along with the long twilight in Seosan.
On a rainy day in August, I encountered the silky fermented tea at the Dasan Chodang in Gangjin, South Jeolla. Thanks to the tea offered by the resident instructors who teach tea ceremony, calligraphy, traditional manners and Silhak tradition, I could recover my energy. The trips to Seosan and Gangjin were not planned properly, but I am grateful that I took the journeys, thanks in part to the pleasant memories of the tea.
Recently, a friend offered a chance to enjoy traditional tea made by the venerable Myodeok, a master monk of “the nine rounds of roasting” method. The tea not only stimulated my appetite but also made me happier. I was amazed by the tea, and thought tea may be the tradition, culture and identity of Korea.
Yesterday, I went shopping for holiday gifts for relatives. I was looking for a nice tea set, but the selection was limited. The sales clerk said that coffee’s popularity has overwhelmed the demand for tea. Perhaps, it’s not just the tea but the traditional culture and mental relaxation that are being pushed over. This Chuseok holiday, I want to present my friends and family with traditional tea to enjoy over sweet conversation.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
BY CHAE IN-TAEK