My blog is all about tea (camellia sinensis). This segment of the tea files will focus on the Jirisan area of Hadong County, South Korea. Whether your a tea afficionado, tea connoisseur, tea enthusiast, or tea novice, I hope to provide you with selective information, stories, and my personal tea trekking adventures, and at times, pictures relating to tea and teaware.
|Posted on April 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
Today it rained lightly and intermittently all day. Ordinarily, it would have been a perfect day for one to stay at home to both relax and prepare to sip through a couple pots of nokcha. However, I was restless and decided to take a hike through Jirisan, Hwagae Valley, Jeonggeum Village on the spur of the moment to check on the tea terrain.
I had walked up this village before in the past and have always found some interesting scenery to explore. So I proceeded to walk the narrow road like I had in the past. It gradually got steeper as I walked past some familiar mountain homes. Dogs were barking, both small and large. I kept on climbing and the road gradually became steeper until there was a fork in the road. I was only at about 200 meters elevation, but I was somewhat out of breath. After resting for a few minutes, I caught my breath and trodded on until I came to a fork in the road. I decided to head toward the left fork in the road since I had already explored the mountain-side that went the other direction. At this point, the light spring rain subsided and I could only feel a slight drizzle overhead. The temperature was at about 15 Celsius. It was a little cool, but it felt invigorating nonetheless. I was now hiking higher and was off the narrow road and on a mountain path.
I saw all sorts of trees and fog shrouded mountain peaks. The spring colors were vibrant with green, auburn, yellow, red, violet, and white. These were the colors of magnolia trees, pine trees, maple trees, chestnut trees, azeleas, fern bracken, bamboo groves, and other mountain vegetation the names of which were unknown to me. I saw patches of wild tea and semi-wild rocky tea gardens on these slippery mountain slopes. Looking closer at the nokcha bushes, I could see fine dew droplets that had accumulated on the leaves.
A short time later, I could hear woodpeckers at the tree line near the ridge of the mountain. I trekked higher to about 400 meters, but the path had disappeared and the ground was muddy and slippery. There were small rocks and large moss covered boulders that were wet and one had to be very careful so as not to slip on any of it. At this point, and about 200 meters from the peak, I took a short rest. I could feel the mist on my face now from the fog slowly descending from the mountain peaks and caressing the tree tops. The fog looked surreal as it engulfed the surrounding landscape.
There wasn't a person in sight and it was getting late in the afternoon. Steep and slippery mountain slopes is no place to attempt to descend from when darkness begins to creep in. The landscape was damp, wet, muddy, rocky, and piles of dead leaves that hid crevices and holes of all shapes and sizes. Not to mention the possibility of encountering wild mountain boars looking for food. I saw plenty of evidence of what they had done to the roots of camellia sinensis in their search for food. The ground was dug up and the roots chewed to near extinction. This is actually quite common on the mountains slopes of Hwagae Valley and throughout Jirisan in general.
I slowly and carefully descended from the mountain with my body turned sideways using my legs to brace myself against the rocky and slippery terrain.
From my vantage point I looked at the tea terrain on various mountain slopes and came away somewhat anxious, but hopeful. Nevertheless, it turned out to be an interesting and invigorating adventure on this misty day in Jirisan!
|Posted on April 6, 2013 at 10:25 PM||comments (0)|
Here is one way to get rid of tea leaves that were severely affected by this winter's harsh weather conditions. The sound of mechanical shearing is heard throughout Hwagae Valley. The camellia sinensis tea bushes are carefully and neatly sheared to allow new growth to peek out from beneath the eyesore leaves of winter past. The pruned tea leaves will provide beneficially organic tea mulch for the rows of nutrient starved tea shrubs. Lush virgin growth will hopefully begin to sprout in the coming weeks in time for the first harvest around mid-April. This picture was taken about 1 week ago.
|Posted on March 20, 2013 at 2:20 AM||comments (0)|
I came upon this photo opportunity on the way back from a recent trekking experience. It was a warm and bright afternoon and I was descending from a densely popluated bamboo forest which was located above a small village in Hwagae Valley.
I got a whiff of this fragrant scene:
What I saw were semi-wild tea plants growing from beneath that giant rock. This rock was located in the midst of a small tea plot which was minimally maintained. Grass was growing rampant throughout this terraced tea garden and hovering above the rock and tea plants was a flowering oriental ume tree .
The ume blossoms are called mae-hwa kkot (매화 꽃) which directly translates to plum blossoms or sometimes referred to as Japanese apricot blossoms. They are a symbol that spring has arrived in Korea, as well as, other asian countries like Japan. These incredibly fragrant blossoms seem to softly caress what appeared to be climbing tea plants and released their perfumed scent on them and the surrounding landscape.
It was indeed a breath of fragrantly fresh air that one will not forget anytime soon!
|Posted on March 1, 2013 at 9:50 PM||comments (2)|
I spent the last week of February trekking throughout Hwagae Valley to make an observational assessment of this year's winter season damage to the area's tea gardens. Before February 27, the days were somewhat cold and cloudy. However, today was much better. It was a perfect day to go trekking because the temperature was going to be relatively warm and sunny all day reaching about 15°C/59°F. The sky was clear with no cloud in sight. As I was ascending a mountain slope, I happened upon a deer which I startled and it leaped several times before disappearing into a bamboo grove.
I casually observed several low-lying tea gardens, and quiet a few higher elevation semi-wild and wild tea growing areas. To my dismay, I saw what were large patches of tea areas that sustained frost damage which affected camellia sinensis shrubs at both low and high elevations in this part of Jirisan. Some pockets of tea habitat were more extensively impacted than other areas. Here is a small glimpse of what I saw:
A few semi-wild and wild tea habitats were spared this winter season's frost damage or only received limited damage because they appeared to have been shielded from the harsh winter weather conditions. I found them growing next to cyprus trees, pine trees, and in bamboo groves. A few wild tea plants were located between mammoth boulders.
I feel that this winter season, which wrecked extensive havoc on tea bushes in a lot of areas, however, was no comparison to the severe winter season of 2010-2011 and the emotional and economic turmoil it had on tea farmers here. A lot of tea farmers could not salvage their tea harvest.
This year I am cautiously optimistic because there are approximately 45 days until the 2013 ujeon tea harvest. There is still time for Jirisan, Hwagae Valley, to receive much needed rain followed by warm, breezy, sunny afternoons. Of course, the blessings of the mountain spirits would be beneficial as well.
Given the somewhat gloomy picture, I believe all is not lost. My best guess is that the quality of the ujeon (1st flush) buds, with few exceptions will be diminished, but the following sejak and jungjak tea leaf grades will have a better cup quality. I can only hope that things turn out far rosier than what I saw this beautiful, sunny afternoon in Hwagae Valley.
|Posted on February 9, 2013 at 11:20 PM||comments (2)|
Today in The Tea files I am going to describe to you our recent trekking experience on the way to Uisin Village, Jirisan National Park. Sun and I went hiking in Jirisan National Park with the sole purpose of enjoying the crisp yet unseasonably warm, late winter season weather. It was about 9 ºC/48 ºF. We casually walked on a mountain road which gradually began to incline for about 2 miles taking in the natural beauty of the area. We saw the ice and snow melting around the edges of semi-frozen ponds and creeks like the one in the picture below.The water was crystal clear all the way to the bottom of both ponds and creeks. Tell-tale signs that changes between seasons were beginning to appear. The picture below is an example:
After walking for what seemed to be about 10 minutes, we decided to take a detour off the main road to walk to a remote village called Dancheon. It was a gradually inclining road which later became more steep and taxing on the limbs. On the way to the top of the village there were no cars on the mountainous road and the air was crispy fresh. We continued to walk for about another 30 minutes looking at rocky cliffs, crooked and slanted pine trees both on the rocky cliffs and in the mountain creek. A few colorful, chirping birds were singing on the branches of plum trees. Then we came upon this location which was on a dirt path off the main road in a semi-wooded area.
One can see that this remote micro tea garden has been unattended for a period of time and was engulfed by weeds, frost damage on some of these low lying tea bushes, and a general lack of water which is common these days during the dry winter season. However, by April, I am optimistic that it will spring back and look verdant and vibrant. How is it possible? It is located at approximately 1000 meters/3280 feet near a running creek with pure mountain water and surrounded by fresh mountain air devoid of pollution. During the light rainy spring season, rolling fog will carpet these tea plants and deposit fine dew droplets on their tender tea buds and fragile leaves. All of these factors will, in my view, ultimately produce the delicious tasting and deeply nuanced semi-wild nokcha that Jirisan is becoming known for around the world!
|Posted on January 17, 2013 at 12:25 AM||comments (4)|
|Posted on December 19, 2012 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
I found this interesting section of a wall mural regarding the 'Symbolism of Tea Blossoms.
(Courtesy of the Tea Museum of Korea, Jeollanam Province, Boseong County)
The five petals of a tea blossom symbolize five qualities believed to be defining characteristics of human beings in Confucianism:
1. Benevolence 2. Righteousness 3. Propriety 4. Wisdom 5.Trustworthiness.
The stamen of the tea blossom is a symbol of the nine virtues and nine demeanors required of a Confucian gentleman.
The next time that you sip your favorite cup of nokcha, relax and enjoy the beauty of the tea blossom and the leaf!