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Everything I Didn’t Know About Korean Tea

Pull up a chair while I tell you everything I know about Korean tea. Although you probably wouldn’t have time to sit down. As for the title of this article, I’m not going to actually attempt to tell you everything I don’t know about Korean tea, because that would be a lot. So I’ll confine myself to a brief overview of the topic and a few resources for the inquisitive reader to explore.

Korean tea ceremony from Wikipedia (Photo source: screen capture from site)
Korean tea ceremony from Wikipedia (Photo source: screen capture from site)

Though tea has been known there for about thirteen centuries, Korea is not in the ranks of the world’s great tea producers – or consumers, for that matter. When it comes to per capita consumption, South Korea is pretty far down the list, where they tie for 119th place with Armenia. But let’s not forget that even though Japan is not at the top of the list of tea drinkers or growers, some of the best green tea you’ll ever drink originates there and they also boast a well-established tea culture.

To get a better handle on Korean tea, there are a number of sources you could start with. Wikipedia, which typically provides a good jumping off point on many topics, seems to focus almost exclusively on tisanes said to be popular in Korea and makes little mention of “real” tea, as derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Their entry on the Korean tea ceremony, however, is considerably more informative and relevant.

For a better overview of Korean tea culture and history, you might want to try The Book of Korean Tea, by Yang-Seok (Fred) Yoo, a 2007 volume which bills itself as “A Guide to the History, Culture and Philosophy of Korean Tea and The Tea Ceremony.” You could also try a pair of books which were co-written by Brother Anthony of Taize, an English monk and scholar now living in Korea. His books include The Korean Way of Tea, also published in 2007, and Korean Tea Classics (2010), a volume that translates three ancient Korean texts on tea into English for the first time. Brother Anthony has also put together an informative Web resource on Korean tea that also contains some information on Chinese and Japanese tea as well.

While their Web site seems to be in the formative stages, the Korean Tea Culture Foundation might be worth bookmarking for future investigation. For my money, no discussion of Korean tea culture would be complete without mentioning MattCha’s Blog. While he loves in Canada, Matt has frequently written on the topic of Korean tea over the course of the five years the site has been in operation.

Last up, here are a pair of interesting articles from none other than the Korean Herald. The first is a brief overview that leans toward the tea tourism side of things, while the second is a profile of pleasantly-named Beautiful Tea Museum, located in Insa-dong, South Korea.

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