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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Korean Tea

Park Jong Il Teacup


I have grown incredibly fond of Korean tea ever since I first tried it.  Although looking back some of the very first Korean teas I had were quite bad, since then I have found a few quality vendors of Korean Tea, but I will not list them as Mattcha has an amazing list of Korean Tea Vendors. What amazes me the most is how absolutely versatile Korean teas are even though there are relatively few styles compared to thier Chinese counterparts.

When brewing tea we all imagine teapots, teacups, and you go through a series of steeps doing almost an endless dance transferring water from one vessel to the next trying to not let it get too cold, before you get a finished product.  While this has endless variations as to how you can brew it, it honestly does not hurt to experiment a bit. I have found Korean green teas, to be far more forgiving than their Japanese counterparts, and to a lesser extent their Chinese counterparts in terms of brewing temperatures.  So much so that with Korean teas you can often get good tasting, though incredibly different cups from the same tea, just by altering the parameters.  Getting away from the realm of green teas, going with Balhyocha, you can start out cooler at 190F or so for smooth medicinal cups, and ramp up the temperature bit by bit getting consistent cups of tea, or you could start out at full boil, far shorter steeps, and get less steeps of tea that are loaded with intense flavor.

As with most teas, you can ditch that whole concept of brewing entirely, and just put leaves on the bottom of a teabowl and add hot water and drink.  While being able to do this is not exclusive to Korean teas, it is one of my favorite methods to brew Korean teas.  I can only guess as to why, but with Korean greens, there never seems to be a problem of an abundance of  leaf not sinking after having hot water added.  There also are usually far fewer broken bits than one could find in other teas, so no more gagging on a mouth full of leaf flakes. 

Many people talk about eating used Gyokuro of Sencha leaves, and honestly I have never been too fond of doing such. Yet with Korean greens, I munch away like there is no tomorrow. 
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