In the time I’ve been drinking and writing about tea – that’s about eight years now – I’ve never had the pleasure to sample any Korean tea. It’s a major oversight and one that I need to rectify but for the moment I’ll have to live with it.
With all due respect to South Korea, the country is probably not the first one you think of when you think of tea production. As far as tea consumption goes they don’t even rank on a list of 141 tea drinking nations, but perhaps that’s beside the point.
Korea does have a thriving if relatively modest tea industry. The best known portion of which appears to be located in the county of Boseong, in the southern portion of the country. Like their neighbor to the south and east – Japan – Korea and Boseong are best known for their green tea. Given the relatively modest size of Korea’s tea industry versus the amount of press attention I’ve seen lavished on this region it’s a good bet that tea growers there are cognizant of the value of publicity.
According to Discovering Korea, a popular travel and culture blog, tea came there from China and is mentioned as far back the seventh century. The author of this travelogue-type article on the region suggests that “today, Boseong’s tea plantations account for 40% of Korea’s total green tea production” and has also become something of a hotbed of tea tourism.
Not surprisingly, Korea’s official tourism site offers some additional resources related to the country’s tea industry and to Boseong, in particular. Their World of Korean Tea takes a look at the green tea produced there as well as the various other tea-like herbal beverages that are popular in Korea. It also has information on such destinations as the Beautiful Tea Museum and Jeju O’Sulloc Museum.
Also included at the site is an article titled The Green Tea Plantations of Boseong, which points out that some tea plantations in this region were planted by the Japanese prior to World War II and then left fallow. In the Fifties one of these was revived and now Daehan Tea Plantation “is the oldest, largest and most beautiful of the area’s tea gardens.” Also worth a look if you make it to Boseong in the spring, is the Boseong Green Tea Festival, where the activities include tea making, green tea rice cake making, and green tea soap making, just to name a few.
As I always do, when the subject of Korean tea comes up, I like to put in a plug for MattCha’s Blog, whose author has been written a great deal about Korean teas since the site got underway in 2008. For a more recent take on Daehan Tea Plantation, be sure to check out this recent article from the Korean press, which ran at the same time as this piece on the Korean tea ceremony.
See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.
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