South Korea has a long and confusing tea tradition. Supposedly when the first converted Buddhist monks returned to Korea from their sojourn in China around the end of the Fourth Century CE, they brought tea seeds with them. Over the centuries tea grew in popularity to become part of the Korean Buddhist identity and experience. This is, until Buddhism was all but stamped out by Neo-Confucianism during the Joseon (1392-1897). Tea and tea culture was relegated to the confines of the ruling dynastic family. The history lesson normally would have ended there. Ironically however, toward the end of the Joseon, when commoners began to adopt the strictures for ancestor worship laid down in Zhu Xi’s Formalities of Family, one of the esoteric rites they adopted was the rite of tea. It would not be inaccurate to extrapolate that tea came to be a part of Korean culture via its regard for (forgotten?) Chinese cultures.
At any rate, South Korea now grows a great deal of tea, and as Goldfish has been selling a few of them here and there, I’ve nabbed the ones i liked for review.
Teas harvested in Korea after the May 5th-6th holiday of Ipha, but before the 15th of that month are known as Jung-jark and represents the 2nd flush (I’d learned this bit from reading Pettigrew’s New Tea Companion). The tea I picked up from Goldfish is labeled Jungjak… There may be some mis-romanization happening here, i honestly don’t know enough about Korean to confirm which (or both) is the correct spelling.
One thing i particularly liked about Jungjak is its loose leaf appearance: a crinkly full bud-and-one-leaf pluck with a lovely jade-like coloration. I also chose Jungjak as it offered the most interesting aroma from the five or so available to choose from at Goldfish. Brewed, Jungjak also smells irresistible. The aroma is similar to warm Oolong in oxidation with a wicker-basket/trellis after a hard rain-like bouquet. After the first few sips I can also feel my stomach doing somersaults, so my best guess is that Jungjak is at least partially oxidized. In flavor, Jungjak resembles a subtle pan-fried Green. Surprisingly though, where an Oolong would be woolly, Jungjak’s texture is soft and smooth. Jungjak’s spent leaves also smell a great deal like a TiKuanYin, but in makeup they’re too stemmy. Truly a fascinating tea!
- Aroma – 90
- Taste – 87
- Texture – 86
- Spunk – 96
- Price – 91
- Availability – 93
- Appearance – 87
Mean score – 90% Not bad!