Monday, November 19, 2012

A Quick Primer on Balhyocha

We just introduced a delicious new tea to our tea inventory, Korean hwangcha by the exceptional artisan master Jeong Jae Yeun.   She dedicates her entire tea production to hwangcha.  Her hwangcha is a delicious Korean yellow tea that is the favorite tea of the teaware artist and artisan tea producer Park Jong Il. 
Recently, I received a request from a well-known tea blogger asking to purchase some of my “balhyocha”.  As a very knowledgeable tea connoisseur, he knew that ‘hwangcha’ is often referred to as ‘balhyocha’.  But we at Morning Crane Tea are offering two distinct oxidized Korean artisan teas that might be called "balhyocha", one we call “hwangcha” the other we call “balhyocha” because the artisan producers that make both teas use those terms.  When I replied we were out of our “balhyocha” but had “hwangcha” he was surprised since he thought they were the same.  The point is, he wasn’t wrong.  Nor are we.   
Information on Korean tea is coming to us in the Western world in various separated pieces.  The current tea revival in Korea is actually relatively new.  While Korean tea itself has a rich and long history, information on the Korean teas we drink here in the West is spotty at best.  After all, we haven’t been drinking Korean teas here for very long.  That is why we at Morning Cane Tea are trying to make quality Korean teas available to the Western market.    
Through the work of Brother Anthony and others, some Western tea connoisseurs probably know more about the history of Korean teas then we know about the Korean teas we drink.  Some who have read Brother Anthony and Hong Kyeong-Hee's book The Korean Way of Tea: An Introductory Guide may not have even tasted quality Korean teas.  If you are one of them contact me to be on the list for a special offer that will be available after the spring pick.
So what about “balhyocha”?    
The current Korean use of the term “balhyocha” is confusing for two main reasons.  First, there is also a second Anglicization of the word “balhyocha” as “paryo-cha”.  “Balhyocha” and “paryo-cha” are the same word just Anglicized differently.  (It would take too long and it is not necessary to explain why.)   The word simply means “oxidized”.  So any Korean tea that is oxidized is “balhyocha”.  In Korea if it is not green tea it is “balhyocha”.  That means of the teas we at Morning Crane Tea sell: our hwangcha, balhyocha, dan-cha (hongcha) and pu’erh are all “balhyocha”.  Wait a minute!  Why am I saying that balhyocha is “balhyocha”?  That doesn’t seem to make sense.  Isn’t it true that Koreans call hwangcha “balhyocha”?  Yes, and that brings up the second and most interesting reason.  Some artisan producers call hwangcha “balhyocha” but when they  do so it is the waste of the perfectly useful term - “hwangcha”.  Korea has a history of using the term “hwangcha” for their yellow tea so why also call that yellow tea “balhyocha”?        
I’ll try to explain.  Many Korean artisan producers make hwangcha as their oxidized tea and refer to it as “balhyocha”.  It is like saying, “My oxidized tea.” After all, all hwangcha is “balhyocha” but not all “balhyocha” is hwangcha.  When a Korean artisan tea producer makes just one oxidized tea they tend to refer to it as balhyocha.  Again that is like saying ,"My oxidized tea."  What then is a Korean artisan tea producer to do when they make two or more oxidized teas, one tea that is hwangcha (yellow tea), another tea that is oxidized beyond hwangcha and a third with even more oxidation a hongcha or red tea?   That second oxidized tea is not oxidized to the point where it could be described as a hongcha (we call our Hong-cha 'Dan-cha' for reasons explained elaswhere)?  But what is that in-between oxidized tea?  What should Koreans call that tea?  In China and Taiwan that tea is called “oolong”.  However for many Korean artisan tea producers the term “oolong” is so strongly identified with China and Taiwan that the Korean producers don’t like to call their similarly oxidized tea “oolong” so they call it “balhyocha”.  Why not simply call it “oolong”?  After all Koreans, like the Chinese, call their yellow tea “hwangcha” (even though it isn’t the same tea) and they call their red tea “hongcha” (even though it isn’t the same tea).  Why not call their oolong type tea simply “oolong” (even though it isn’t the same tea)?   I think it has to do with both Korean pride and Korean tradition.  Korea has a long and established history of producing both hwangcha (yellow tea) and hongcha (red tea).  But Korea doesn’t have a well-established history for producing “oolong” or at least one that I am familiar with.  What is “oolong” anyway?  Can we call oolong  “amber” tea?  We seem to call other teas by their color such as white, green, yellow, red and black - although red and black seem to be the same.  Why not call oolong an “amber” tea?  (The word 'orange' is used but can become confusing.)  Do you see where this thinking can lead?  What is the point?   
Korean artisan producers who produce both hwangcha and another more oxidized tea use the term “balhyocha” for their more oxidized tea that is not oxidized as much as a hongcha.  Those producers who make both hwangcha and an oolong type tea are calling their oolong type oxidized tea “balhyocha”.  Is it really “balhyocha”?  Yes, of course it is.  Is it ‘right’ that they choose to call their oolong type tea “balhyocha”.  Of course it is.  It is their tea, even if it is a little confusing.  After all the substance of a tea is not in what you call it but in how it is oxidized (or not) and how it tastes.  Now that we know that Korean artisan producers sometimes call their oolong like oxidized teas “balhyocha” after a while we may even know what we are talking about.   It is simply one of the many anomalies when it comes to tea – and if you have been into tea for almost anytime at all you know there are plenty of anomalies to go around. 
Please check my newer and better post on balhyochas.   
Then you might want to go back to the hwangcha post.  Where you can sign up to be on the list to get some of Oh Young Soon's delicious artisan balhyocha and buy some hwangcha if we don’t run out of it.

P.S. You may also like to refer to this post by MattCha posted before he tried our Dan-Cha. Since this post Dan-Cha by Dong Cheon Tea is no longer being produced.  We now offer a selection of balhyochas produced by various artisan producers.  Contact us for more information. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jeong Jae Yeun's Hwangcha - New to Morning Crane Tea

If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting Park Jong Il and his wife in their studio complex high in the mountains near Gyeongju, most likely you have tasted this delicious tea.  He often serves it to his special guests.
Let’s look at the tea.

You can see how small the leaves are compared to Park Jong Il’s small cooling bowl.  Here is a closer look.

The color and condition of the leaves are beautiful.
I infused this tea 5 times and could have continued several more stopping only to complete this post. 

The amber liquor is also beautiful.  I wish I were one able to describe the taste of this toasty fruity tea.  The package references notes of fern, persimmon and ginger.  I can simply say that I really enjoy this tea.

As you can see the infused leaves, after 5 infusions, look like they have much more to offer.  So I returned these leaves to the teapot and infused them three more times.  Why waste good tea?
This is a rare hwangcha, highly recommended by Shin In-suk, Park Jong Il and of course us at Morning Crane Tea. 
We at Morning Crane Tea are honored to be the only Western source for this wonderful artisan hwangcha.  Follow this blog to be among the first to learn more about the other teas we are making available to you.
To learn more about this tea go to our Morning Crane Tea post.
We are offering this special artisan hwangcha at just $22.00 for 50g.  I realize that price is still higher than most Chinese hwangcha but it is also less pricy than most Korean hwangcha.  As you know Chinese hwangcha and Korean hwangcha are not the same teas.   To help a little more on your first order of this hwangcha we will add 10g more during the month of November, 2012.  That's 60g for $22.00.   Contact us if you are interested.
We at Morning Crane Tea are doing our best to bring you great teas at the most reasonable prices.  Contact us now to reserve your hwangcha.  Add one or more of the other teas we offer and we'll do something special for you then too.  Follow this blog to be among among the first to learn about new teas and possible sales coming soon. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Teas At Morning Crane Tea

 The Morning Crane Symbol From Our Original Photo
We at Morning Crane Tea are working very hard to find and make available to you some of the finest teas made in or related to Korea and beyond.  This short introduction will bring you up to date on some of the work we are doing and begin to acquaint you with our current teas.  
The first grouping are from Dong Cheon Tea.  If you search for "Dong Cheon Tea" on the web, you will find many posts praising the flavors and quality of these teas.  Distinguished Korean tea masters have privately told us that selecting Dong Cheon as our primary source for Korean teas was a wise choice for their superb quality and consistency.  All of our Dong Cheon teas are available to teashops internationally.  Have your teashop no matter what country you live in contact us for details.  We also sell these teas at retail prices to customers who don't live near one of our teashops customers and we 'pass on' some customer inquiries to our teashop friends. 
We are beginning to add to our family of teas a few select Korean artisan teas chosen for their exceptional quality.  For the most part, these teas will be available only directly from us at retail prices.  Some of our teashop customers may have these teas available for short periods of time or for special tea tastings.  In addition we have identified a few teas from other countries that we believe are of exceptional quality and we are considering making them available to you.
Let's look at the labels we use on each of our teas.  We use our Morning Crane symbol on all of our Dong Cheon Teas changing only the color, and sometimes band width, of the surrounding frame to distinguish that particular tea.  When available, we use an image of the artisan producer for the labels on their artisan teas.  Special posts on each of these teas will  eventually follow with images of the teas and tasting notes.

Ujeon the "first pick" is one of our teas from the famous Korean tea cooperative Dong Cheon.  If you have been exploring the web looking for Korean teas search for 'Dong Cheon Tea'.  You will discover how highly regarded teas from this tea cooperative are.  We are their international distributor and sell their teas to retail shops currently in North America, Europe and Australia.  Their teas come from semi-wild bushes, are hand picked and often hand processed as in the case of Ujeon their first pick.  Ujeon is a smooth savory delicate - almost creamy tea.  Koreans prefer this tea above all others.
Sejak, the second pick, is a favorite tea in the retail shops that sell our teas and among our retail customers.  On one of my visits to our local teashop a customer came up to me to introduce himself and thank me personally for making this tea available.  That customer went on to say how surprised he was to discover such a short brewing time for this smooth delicious green tea.  It has become his favorite.  You will want to try this tea.

Jungjak, many artisan producers only make 3 green teas Ujeon, Sejak and Jungjak for each tea brings to us their distinct flavors.  Dong Cheon's semi-wild bushes, picked at the right moment, have deep roots that feed the Jungjak leaf to offer its abundant cha-qi.  I have been told by a leading expert on teas that Jungjak has the perfect leaf for obtaining the most cha-qi. 
Daejak is the fourth pick and as mentioned most artisan tea producers don't make this tea.  That is because of the difficulty in making tea by hand.  It isn't profitable to make less expensive teas like Daejak and summer teas by hand.   But this robust and delicious tea is, like most teas you drink, made by machine by the master producers at Dong Cheon Tea.  When you try this tea you are in for a surprise.  This more hardy tea can take the heat.  It's more robust flavor makes it a favorite tea of many and it has won tea tasting contests against many other green teas.  Try it.  It could become one of your favorite teas - both for its price and flavor.

Yip-Cha: One might assume that Daejak is the last green tea produced by Dong Cheon Tea but there is another surprise in this hardy everyday tea we are calling Yip-Cha.  This summer tea has become a favorite daily tea for Seoul residents in and near the art rich area of Seoul called Insadong.  I've sent this tea to some of my tea connoisseur friends.  They all like its flavor very much.  Some liken it to the green teas made in Yunnan, China.  As our lowest priced tea, you may want to make this tea your daily tea too.
Dan-Cha:  We move from the green teas above, for which Korea is best known, to some more rare teas like this truly delicious red tea we call Dan-Cha.  Western minds will want to place this balhyocha type tea with black teas.  But for me there are great differences between this red and Chinese black teas - particularly in brewing.  Most Chinese black or red teas ask for 3-5 minutes of brewing time after throwing out the first quick rinse to remove the tea dust and begin to open the leaves.  Not so with this clean small leaf Dan-Cha. (We do sometimes awaken the leaves of our teas with a quick splash of proper temperature water.  But only a splash.)  While Dan-Cha will stand up to long brewing times and hot water without bitterness, it simply doesn't need it.  1.5 min is plenty for the first brew that is followed by many more infusions.  I have customers who do not want to be without their Dan-Cha and I personally find myself returning to it often both for its wonderful smooth flavor and for its health giving properties.   You will find that this tea retains some of the characteristics of Sejak that usually is made from the same leaves.  The "Dan" in Dan-Cha refers to both the color red or cinnabar and to a Taoist term for health and long life. This is a great red tea.

Now we are turning to artisan producers for our teas.  The following teas represent many hours and miles of searching and tasting to find artisan quality teas we believe are worthy to become a member of the Morning Crane Tea family of teas.  
Hwang-Cha: This particular artisan yellow tea is hand picked and processed by the great artisan tea master Jeong Jae Yeun who specializes in hwang-cha.  Made from wild tea leaves picked before Buddha's Birthday in the best hwang-cha tradition this tea is a great find.  It is the favorite tea of the teaware artist Park Jong Il.  Watch for a special sale of Park Jong Il's work and this tea.  As I was preparing this post, I announced this tea early to two customers who had been inquiring about the availability of hwang-cha, by return mail one bought 300+ g the other bought 150g.  These artisan teas are currently available only directly from Morning Crane Tea.  While waiting for a good image of the artisan tea master Jeong Jae Yeun, I will use the image of Park Jong Il on these labels to honor him for introducing us to this great tea.
Balhyocha:  Brother Anthony introduced us to the wonderful tea master Oh Young Soon explaining that she is one of the best in Korea.  Oh Young Soon makes her teas by hand from wild bushes.  This tea we are calling Balhyocha is really a Korean oolong.  The term balhyocha simply means 'oxidized'.  Since Koreans don't have their own term for oolong and the term 'oolong' is so tied to Taiwan and China Korean's began to call this oxidized tea simply 'balhyocha'.  There is some confusion in the West between hwang-cha and balhyocha.  Both are oxidized teas but hwangcha is truly a yellow tea and this tea we call 'balhyocha' is truly an oolong.  Since both are also "balhyocha" i.e. "oxidized" as are also our dan-cha and pu-erh you can see how Korean tea terms can become confusing.  In any case this balhyocha made by Oh Young Soon is a great one.  Our tea connoisseurs love this tea.  One recently said that when he wants to impress someone he brings out this tea.     

Our last two teas ttok-cha and pu-erh are both compressed teas and both are historical teas dating back many years in their respective countries.
Ttok-cha:  There are two types of ttok-cha (ddok-cha) the pounded disk type and the compressed cake type.  We will eventually have available both types.  There are probably many artisan tea producers who make ttok-cha but very few who will make their ttok-cha available to anyone outside of Korea.  Even in Korea ttok-cha is not easy to find and purchase.  Our current ttok-cha is the disk type and was made by Park Jong Il and his teacher Kim Song Tae.  Kim Song Tae may be Korea's leading authority on Chinese tea and Chinese teaware.  
The standard tea of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) ttok-cha is beginning to have a small resurgence in interest.  But it is not your everyday tea.  Made originally for medicine, our tea disks like to be roasted and then simmered for 3.5 hours to bring out their truly delicious flavor.  We have an extremely limited supply and no possibility to get more until next spring when Park Jong Il promises to teach our Tea Tour Korea 2013 group how to make it.  This video shows the making of cake type ttok-cha.  It is from an article written by our friend Steven Owyoung on the Cha Dao blog.
Pu-erh: No Longer Available. You may be wondering what pu-erh is doing on a list of our 'Korean' teas.  I guess I'm looking at it this way.  If Japan can have teabowls that were made in Korea listed as Japanese cultural treasures, I can have pu-erh tea made by a Korean artisan tea producer and tea master in Yunnan, China.  Besides I never promised I wouldn't select a few special teas to offer from whatever country that makes them.  This pu'erh is a large "white" leaf "black-oil" pu-erh that is amazing - particularly for its health giving properties.  When Mary, my wife, first tried this tea she was hooked.  This tea must be special ordered.  To learn more about the history of pu-erh click here.
On following posts, we will look at these teas much closer.  Follow this blog to be informed when each post is available.  If you are interested in learning more about any of these teas, their prices and availability, please contact us.   

P.S.  Through a friend we are considering making available a superb Japanese matcha from a company that will not export.  We also found an exceptional Oriental Beauty  from Taiwan.  Please let us know if these teas may be of interest to you.  Is there any interest in these types of tea offerings? Contact us and tell us.
In addition, we will be offering some very special artisan teas by other after the spring pick.      

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This Tea Spot is Brewed: Enjoy

These are pure wild "bamboo tea leaves" from Hwagae Valley, Jirisan.  It took 15 experienced tea pickers 4 hours of difficult work on mountainous terrain in a bamboo forest to pick this amount of tea.  How much hand processed tea will these tealeaves produce?  How much was this producer selling his processed tea for?  If you were on our Tea Tour Korea 2011 you know the answers.  If not, join us on Tea Tour Korea 2016 Tea Tour Korea coming May 2016.   There are several spots left.
Morning Crane Tea is dedicated to bring you the finest teas Korea has to offer.  We are the international dealer for the highly acclaimed cooperative tea producer Dong Cheon Tea.  They pay great attention to detail and all of their teas are organically grown and certified as such in Korea.    Dong Cheon teas are beginning to be discovered throughout the world and have gained considerable attention on many tea blogs.  In addition to Dong Cheon teas, we continue to search for high quality artisan teas and will be bringing those to you as the blog develops.
Welcome to the wonderful teas at Morning Crane Tea.  Are you an official follower of this blog?  Ask for your 'followers discount' when you purchase our teas.