Monday, December 16, 2013

A Post on The Ancient Korean Potter

In February 2010, I wrote a post titled, The Choson Potter’s Studio and KilnIt was posted on my teabowl blog where I simply try to make sense of and gain a better understanding of teabowls.  I’m about to introduce Korean teabowl artists and want you to have that background before I begin introducing these special artists to you.  
The ancient potter's post can be found here.  Thanks for continuing to check this blog.  Thanks also for your support of my efforts to bring you what I consider the best Korean teas and tea ware available.  Contact me if you are interested in any of our teas, tea ware or tours.  I've extended those sales until 2014.  Have a great holiday and a wonderful New Year.
We are now on Facebook. Check us out Morning Crane Tea.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Podcasts Reviews of Morning Crane Teas

This is just an image not an active pod cast.  Links are below.

Podcast Reviews: 
We at Morning Crane Tea are happy to get any review or mention we can get for our teas.  That’s simply because ‘we‘ is really ‘me‘ with no advertising budget and no real financial support.  Thank goodness, so far all reviews have been positive.  But I would expect them to be because I decided to represent the best quality tea company I could find.  That is why I chose Dong Cheon Tea as my primary Korean tea source.  You can find less expensive Korean teas but most likely not as good.  I am offering only personally selected other teas including Korean artisan teas.  In a real sense my tea reputation is on the line and it is personal.  So don't compare Morning Crane Tea with the really big Korean tea companies you can find - except in the quality of the tea where we believe and others have told us we excel.    
This past September (2013) I received an email from James, an American visiting Korea in search of quality Korean teas. He was looking for the teashop that sells Dong Cheon teas in Insadong.  It is not surprising that he couldn’t find it even though it is probably the easiest tea shop to find.  There are many teashops in Insadong and no sign that says Dong Cheon Tea - in English anyway.  My first thought was, “Why is he trying to find Korean teas alone?”  I have been researching Korean teas for years and could have taken him to the best places even in Insadong.  Since the Dong Cheon tea shop is very easy to find, if you know which one it is, I was able to quickly give him directions.  Since then we have communicated several times. 
At the end of one of his emails he wrote:
“A friend and I run a podcast ( where we taste and review certain teas, so we'll actually be tasting/reviewing both teas very soon!
Best Regards,
Now James and his friend Denny have reviewed four of the teas we offer.  We are honored to be included in these important podcasts and I thought you would like to see what they think.
I’m listing these in the order they were reviewed since reviews of similar teas might influence the other review.
It is also very important to emphasize the point that Korea producers talk about first pick, second pick etc.  But we really should not be thinking about Korean teas that way.  Each tea is excellent in its own right and should be simply enjoyed as a tea.  When we say 'first pick' we think “better tea” but true tea connoisseurs know that isn’t necessarily the case.  Each tea brings its own taste profile just like all other teas and should be treated as such based on your personal taste preference not on when it was picked.
Another note: When I write, “. . . from Dong Cheon Tea Hwagae Valley, Jerisan.”  I’m writing about an organically grown tea that has had no pesticides and no fertilizer that would spread the roots.  The same is true for our artisan teas.  The tea leaves are from semi-wild or sometimes wild deep rooted tea bushes.  Jerisan or Jeri mountain is the ‘holy mountain for Korea teas.  In my opinion, Korea’s best teas come from this area.  But just like wineries you might begin with a quality grape or in our case leaf but it is how that leaf is processed that makes a profound difference.  Dong Cheon and the selected artisan producers make the difference.  So if you have tried a Sejak from another company and didn't think much of it don't blame all Sejaks any more than you would blame all Merlots or Syrahs if it were wine you are tasting.       
Again the reviews are in the order of when they were reviewed.  Please return to this site after each review. 
Jungjak from Dong Cheon Tea Hwaegae Valley Jerisan:  Jungjak is a slightly larger leafed tea.  Often overlooked in Korea because of the more popular Sejak, this tea is an excellent tea at a slightly lower price and is sometimes preferred because of its savory flavor.  Tea connoisseurs believe the Jungjak leaf has the most cha-qi.
Dan-Cha from Dong Cheon Tea Hwaegae Valley Jerisan: Dan-Cha is a wonderful dark red tea.  The term “Dan” is a Taoist term meaning both ‘cinnabar red’ and referring also to its health giving properties.  Contrary to the discussion on the podcast, red or black teas have a very long history in Korea dating back at least to their common use of ttokcha in the Goryeo Dynasty.  The tea ages well and we were offering two vintage versions along with this years version.  Sadly we are nearly sold out of all Dan-Cha's.
Sejak from Dong Cheon Tea Hwaegae Valley Jerisan:
Sejak is the most popular tea drunk in Korea and after watching the podcast you may understand why.  Each tea producer has their own version of it but after considerable research I selected the Dong Cheon Tea company to bring Korean teas to America.  Their Sejak was one of the deciding factors.  The second pick, this tea is small leafed and delicious. Note they are using a similar Yeohanggi to the one we have on sale.
Hwangcha from Jerisan: An Artisan Tea
Korean hwangcha teas are rare to find on the common market but possibly easier to find when you get closer to the artisan tea producers in Jerisan and out of the way tea producing areas.  This hwangcha is organic, hand picked and hand processed by an individual artisan producer that makes no other tea but hwangcha.  Her hwangcha is picked and produced before Buddha’s birthday using the leaves  normally reserved for woojeon or sejak green teas. 
I want to thank James and Denny for permitting this post and for both reviewing our Korean teas and providing this special kind of insight into teas in general.  Please follow them at   
Note: I'm a ceramic artist currently taking a haitus from that work to try to understand teas better so that I might improve my tea ware and at the same time bring you some unique offerings in both Korean tea and Korean tea ware.  
I'd also like to sell the teas we offer to a teashop near you.   Thanks for letting them know 'we' exist and thanks for appreciating my efforts. 
Please contact me if you would like any of our Korean teas  or tea ware or have questions about either. 
When you visit the TeaDB site you might notice a reference to our sale where James confirms that our sale prices are below the retail prices in Korea. 
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Cyber ‘Monday’ Sale: Dec. 2-8, 2013 Only

A Yeohanggi Teacup

I know it is crazy for an independent tea dealer like me to even think about offering anything on Cyber Monday.  My markups are so slim already but the sale is just for the day plus a little more and I went into the Korean tea and teaware business to give you the opportunity to get some amazing Korean teas and tea ware  - so here goes. 
This post is so late I’ll extend this Cyber 'Monday' Sale until Dec. 8  i.e. Monday through Sunday.  But can't guarantee we can obtain different teaware than what I have already ordered. Both tea and the following tea ware are available all week at this price but ends Dec. 8, 2013 as long as supplies last. 
The price list has been removed.  Contact us for current prices.

Now, for reading this far, with any tea order, we will make the Korean travel set or Yeohanggi available to you for the same price you would pay in Korea.  I just ordered these great teaware items because some of you have been asking about them.  I don't know how much they will cost me in either price or shipping yet so I could be losing money.  The Yeohanggi for this special "Cyber Monday" sale is just $25.00.  They are made by individual artists formed by hand and fired in reduction.  If you order before, Mon. Dec 8 and as long as supplies last.  I ordered a few Yeohanggi sets but can't guarantee your choice.  I do have a couple of spotted Yeohanggi sets ordered in addition to the white.
The Korean Travel Set or Yeohanggi Set 여행기 consists of three pieces: the pouring bowl, cup and lid.  For travel and storage, the cup fits inside the pouring bowl with lid on top.  It is Korea's answer to the gaiwan.  The capacity is 100ml so it is perfect for individual tea.
This is the set you are ordering: (wooden coaster not included)

 Ha Il Nam's Favorite Yeohanggi Set 

This is the same set Ha Il Nam, president of Dong Cheon Tea uses daily.  Two alternate sets can be seen on this post and can be ordered if you don't mind waiting.  We will have a few spotted sets. (see post)

    Ha Il Nam at his tea shop in Insadong with the Yeohanggi

I'm sorry this post is so late.  I just decided to do it. Contact me if you would like to order or have questions.  Happy Holidays in any case.

PS:  The tea I can ship now with the exception of Dan Cha Classic, Dan Cha Gaya 08 and Yip-Cha.  I should receive everything in the next 10 days.  Just in time to get it to you before Christmas or the end of the year. 

PPS: Those of you who have bought this delicious artisan Hwangcha from me earlier at a lower price will note the higher price offered here.  I recalculated my price on this tea and discovered I was selling it below cost.  It is a long story but one I'll only tell to you individually.  In any case, my apologies.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

無爲 Mu-wi Sejak: A Rare Korean Green Tea

This post has been long in coming.  I should have posted it in the Spring.  For those across the changing climate in the northern hemisphere around the world we are in ‘balhyocha’ time for teas.   But most of my retail customers are from the West Coast and Southwestern USA, Australia and other warmer climates so for them nokcha is always in season.  Besides a good green tea is good anytime of year anywhere you live.   
This year I am able to offer some great new teas, but I've had very little time to tell you about them.
Because the delicious Dong Cheon semi-wild organic teas from Jerisan are our standard, I want to tell you about one of their new teas that is in concept and flavor for me one of the most interesting teas we have ever offered.  It is called 無爲 Mu-Wi Sejak (Mu-Wee).
I am far from a Taoist scholar, Seon Priest or even ruminant scholar but I am slightly familiar with two concepts of ‘mu’  that are important to these philosophies/religions.  They are mu-shim and mu-wi.  Like most rather deep Asian religious and meditative concepts, they are difficult to explain in English.  If I were a true Taoist or Seon scholar my guess is I would not be so foolish to try to explain them at all, especially not on a blog post.  But since I am not any of those and hopefully this post won’t (certainly shouldn't) end up in anyone's dissertation . . ..
Lets begin with the term ‘mu-shim’.  It is actually a rather well known term even in the West, but perhaps not in this form.  The term ‘mu’ means something like ‘empty’, ‘nothing’, ‘nothingness’ or ‘without‘ etc.  The term ‘shim‘, as in ‘mu-shim', is loosely translated as ‘mind’ as in the ‘conscious mind’ or the ‘unconscious mind’.  The term ‘mu-shim‘ is therefore translated as ‘empty mind’.  It is not the unconscious mind.  In practice it means being in a state where the mind transcends ‘thought’ to simply be able to act without “thinking” or the interference of ‘thought’.  It implies being without all those thoughts that can interfere with ones ability to act or do.  To essentially be ‘one’ with the moment without thinking about it.  It should be a very natural, unagitated and a peaceful state of being.  It is the state I attempt to approach when I meditate before forming a chawan or even a simple teacup.  Essentially I try to rid my mind of all the mental ‘debris’ of ‘knowledge’ or what may be bothering me that day and simply ‘do’.  When the process is successful that chawan or teacup is often ‘better than I can ‘do’ especially if the glaze and kiln do their part.
But what about ‘mu-wi’?  Basically, the term means ‘doing nothing’.  It is not the lazy and slothful ‘doing nothing’, but like mu-shim the peaceful ‘doing nothing’ and the relaxing ‘doing nothing’, the vacation ‘doing nothing’ or in our case the Tea meditation ‘doing nothing’.  
Enough savoring of the word,  It is time to savor the tea - and it is indeed a tea worthy of savoring.
I first tried this tea served by Ha Ilnam owner of Dong Cheon tea company in his famous tea shop in Insadong Korea.  Mary, my wife, and I were with a friend who owns a teashop in Berlin, Germany.  My friend’s response after tasting this tea was to order 7.5 kilo.
True, Ha Ilnam is a master brewer.  I was once with a tea connoisseur, who after witnessing Mr. Ha brew several teas, said to me, “He is so good at brewing he could make Daejak taste like Woojeon.” 
But I’m not a master brewer and this tea tastes great when I brew it too. 
Now to the description of my first at home impression of the tea Mu-Wi Sejak.  As with all the teas I encounter, my first impression is with the nose when in this case the 250g bag was first opened*.  That is one of the benefits of having a tea business.  I’m able to open larger bags of tea and experience their full aroma.  With this Mu-wi Sejak, I catch the essence of this tea - a roasty fragrance that simply grasps me gently and pulls me in.

I resist, to avoid contamination, and reach for a cup then scoop in some tea leaves.  Now I can fully explore its depth as I bring the leaf filled cup to my nose and breath it in - in an out - taking a long moment just to enjoy this delightful, sweet, mildly roasted bouquet, “Whoa!” I quietly exclaim, “This is going to be good.”

The leaves are tiny.  I select one, place it on my tongue and chew.  The dry crispy flakey leaf crumbles, then gives way to a sweet very slightly bitter and slightly nutty taste.  I take a few more leaves and discover I could sit here and simply eat this tea like a snack.

But this tea is for brewing and I must see how it responds to the water I’m using here in the USA.
I have become quite sensitive to the affects of water on tea.  Our family home in PA has terrible town supplied well water that is supposed to be acceptable to consume but in reality is not drunk from the tap by anyone.  It certainly can’t be used for tea.  Water has a profound effect on the taste of tea.  Fortunately where we live the water is excellent.  We brew our teas with filtered tap water that has been quickly boiled to remove any faint traces of chlorine - but not boiled to death.  I have tried various bottled spring waters but have come to prefer this tap water.  How fortunate.
I usually use a Park Jong Il teapot and cups but I want you to see how the leaves and color develop so I’ll use a small glass teapot with a Park Jong Il cup.  

I weigh out 3g of tea leaves for this 150 ml (5oz) teapot.  After warming the pot and cups I pour in the dry leaves and a ‘splash’ of the hot water to waken the leaves.  I must enjoy the essence of this now hot and wet tea once more with my nose.  The ambrosial juices are released.  

The teapot is filled with water that was heated to about 145F or about 63C.  This tea will stand more heat but I prefer these lower temperatures for delicate green teas.  Brewing time is 35-50 seconds for first brew.   It pours into my cup a sweet, fresh slightly savory, roasty and lightly slippery tea that coats my mouth - delicious.  I am not one to describe taste well but I like what I am tasting and believe you will too. 
As a side note, I never rinse or wash any of my Korean tea leaves to get rid of dust or fannings not even our balhyochas.  They don’t need it.

The tea is delicious smooth gentle and savory more roasty than I expected but not a robust flavor.  That will come with the larger tea leaves.  Still delicious and it seems to live up to its name.  For I'm able to relax and simply enjoy the moment. 

Check out these Mu-wi leaves after brewing.  Maybe I should pickle them or use them in a pajeon Korean pancake.
I obviously didn’t write this post to make a lot of money selling this tea (I might have two bags left) but rather I wanted to introduce you to a tea you might not be familiar with.  Mu-wi like Gok-woo green teas are seldom made.  This is a special tea with a special price  list $28.00 price $23.00 50g if we have any left
The cup is a Park Jong Il white teacup.  We will be having a sale on his tea ware soon on what we have in stock.  Those sale prices are available to you now.  Contact me for the tea ware and green tea sale.

The Park Jong Il tea set I would have used.

Note: Green Tea Sale 50g silver bags
Woojeon:        List $48.00       Sale $46.00 

Mu-wi Sejak:   List $28.00      Sale $25.00 
Sejak:              List $25.00       Sale $20.50
Jungjak:           List $18.00       Sale $15.50

Daejak:            List $15.00       Sale $12.50
Yip-Cha           List $  8.00       Sale $  6.00 
Contact us to see if we have anything left. 

The Woojeon is the good stuff and sells at $50.00 in Korea.
The Mu-wi you now know.  The Sejak is wonderful and has been blogged about by others.  Some say this is the best year for Jungjak and the Daejak is a wonderful tea at an excellent price.  Yip-cha as a wonderful everyday green tea from the same semi-wild organic plants as all of our Dong Cheon teas.  It is a favorite everyday tea in Insadong. 
But we are getting low on our greens so if you are interested act.  The price goes up Nov.1 and we could run out of tea before then.  
If orders are placed by Oct 25, 2013 I will order any of these teas for you at these prices.
Will I reorder more of these greens before spring after Nov. 1? I'm not sure.  That depends on this sale.   
These prices are good for what I have in stock, which isn’t much, and for orders placed before Oct. 25. 
Don't get spooked but the sale ends on Halloween October 31, 2013.  Place your green tea order now.

Did you miss the posts on Picking Tea in Korea?  Click here.
Balhyochas coming soon. 
Did you see the Park Jong Il teapot sale? Chick here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Picking Tea in Korea: Part 2

Have you read Part 1?
To continue our post, lets begin by visiting at a special tea producer in Boseong.

Kim Se Jin, the owner of SOA Tea is known for his exquisite teas.  His is the first tea plantation, perhaps in all of Korea, to be officially registered as organic in Korea, Japan, Europe and America.  However, our primary decision to offer his teas was based simply on their quality.

SOA teas are hand picked to maintain that quality.  But even here with cultivated bushes and wide paths between them, the footing is still uneven for the pickers.

The line of bushes often takes the path of least resistance in the stony rough soil bending here and there to avoid very rocky terrain on steep paths. Not all Boseong producers have absolutely gorgeous rows of tea bushes.  In addition, these bushes have had a very hard winter.  Never the less even with less than beautiful organized bushes and tealeaves that have had a difficult winter, exceptional tea can be made by exceptional producers like Kim Se Jin at Soa Tea.

Not far away, near the village of Gangjin, the O’Sulloc Tea Company is growing their tea near a beautiful mountain.  O’Sulloc is owned by the Amore Pacific cosmetic company and much of their green tea is used for that purpose.  However, their drinking teas, of many varieties, are well known and often admired.  Notice that the tops of the bushes are flat as compared to the rounded bushes found in Boseong and the wild and semi-wild bushes on Jirisan. 
The flat top has two purposes and is sometimes used for hand picking as well.  First, it creates a ‘table’ for picking each new flush.   

Second, the picking machine can easily slice the top layer of new growth leaves without getting into the thicker hard bush stems below.  Increasingly more sophisticated tea processing machines can separate the twigs, stems and even broken leaves and produce excellent teas.  Remember that the vast majority of teas from Japan and most other parts of the tea world are machine picked and processed.
The area of Gangjin is historically famous for tea.  The Venerable Cho-Ui, Korea's most famous tea monk, lived in this area.  Daeheunsa a temple near Haenam, a city close to Gangjin, was Cho Ui's main home.  We offer Daeheunsa Tea. On a TeaTour Korea our group stayed at Daeheungsa and made tea.  The area is also famous for its historic and current celadon including some really wonderful tea ware.

So which is it?  Do the wild and semi-wild bushes of Jerisan (top) produce better tea than the cultivated tea bushes of Boseong? (bottom)  That is for you to decide, because when it comes down to it, taste is taste - personal.  But Korean tea connoisseurs believe so.
That is why we at Morning Crane Tea have selected mostly tea from Hadong cultivar semi-wild and wild bushes as our source for Korean teas.  We selected Dong Cheon Tea as our main source because this tea company simply makes excellent teas - teas that are competitive with even the finest artisan teas. All of our teas are Korean teas.  A tea must be very special to join the Morning Crane Tea family.  
Nearly all of the teas we offer are hand picked and hand processed.  Only the later picked teas might be machine picked and machine processed. All of the teas we offer are grown under organic growing conditions and all are excellent teas.  Machine picking and processing is common in Japan and most other tea-producing countries but less common especially for early picks in Korea.  
Hand picking is a long, hard and sometimes dangerous job.  It takes dedicated and knowledgeable people to do it.  But the rewards, when the tea is processed well, are exceptional.

The Ven Cho-Ui

From Dong Cha Song: Hymns to Korean Tea by Ven. Cho-Ui. Translated by the Ven. Jinwŏl (revised by Br Anthony) 

Thank you pickers of the tea leaf who in spite of often difficult conditions continue your work beginning the journey of those leaves to my cup. 
 Go to Part 1

 Go to Next Post
Alert Note: 
From time to time we develop very special sales on some very rare teas produced by a few select artisan tea producers including Soa Tea mentioned in this post.  We recently had a sale of the teas produced by Yi Ho Yeong whom many consider one of the very pest artisan producers in Korea.  Did you miss it or are you enjoying those wonderful teas?  
Our special tea offerings will be available at prices as close to the prices in Korea as possible.  In some cases we will be selling teas at our cost with no profit - like we did Yi Ho Yeong's teas. To learn more about these extremely rare opportunities to obtain teas from producers we consider to be some of the best artisan tea producers in Korea, contact us to learn more and to be placed on the waiting list.
We now are on Facebook. I hope you 'Like' us there so you can follow our adventures into Korean tea and tea ware.

Picking Tea in Korea: Part 1

As those of you who have viewed this blog before can see, I changed the heading image on this blog to an image taken from the image below.  I made that change to give you a better idea of where the teas we sell from Hwagae Valley really come from.

On the left of this image semi-wild tea is growing.  The bushes were grown from seeds that came from wild tea bushes.  These semi-wild bushes were planted in rows for easier picking.  Look closely and you will see what appears to be white posts scattered across the field.  Those ‘posts’ are actually ‘insect collectors’ used to avoid the need for insecticides.  No insecticides are used and essentially no fertilizer that would cause the roots to spread.  While these plants are growing in an organized manner, they are left to grow ‘wild’ or naturally in the same way as their ‘parents’ the wild bushes seen on the right. Thus they are referred to as ‘semi-wild’.  On the right of the semi-wild bushes are tea plants growing around the trees and up the hillside.  They are wild tea bushes descendants of the first tea seeds planted not far from this spot in 828 CE.

 Pickers picking from very old bushes where tea was first planted.
 The tea bushes on Jirisan and beyond are known as ‘Hadong’ cultivar tea bushes.  Connoisseurs of Korean tea will tell you that the very best tea comes from this type of wild bush followed by their children the semi-wild bushes.

In both cases the roots grow deep into the earth and therefore absorb the ‘energy’ or Qi Cha from the earth.  Actually, Korean tea connoisseurs will tell you that the very best tea from this type of bush is from wild tea leaves growing in a bamboo forest where the morning dew from the bamboo provides special nourishment and moisture to the wild tea plants.

By contrast we now go to Boseong where during the Japanese occupation the Japanese tea cultivar Yabukita was planted.  I have read that the Japanese were looking for a place to grow tealeaves for hongcha or red (black) tea when they planted these bushes in Korea.  Today they produce primarily green tea.  After the Japanese occupation, Koreans eventually took over those tea fields and developed beautiful cultivated fields.  Here, I have been told, fertilizers are used and in with some growers very small amounts insecticides.
After further research into this question, I discovered that only a few tea producers in the Boseong area use chemical fertilizers and insecticides and that a number of producers there are now growing their teas organically as they are in Hwagae Valley and Jerisan.  

There is no doubt which bushes are more beautiful.  The sweeping Boseong tea fields can’t be matched for pure beauty.  Many movies have been made highlighting these bushes. 
However, as in many things, the outside beauty should not influence your judgment of true character. Beautiful bushes do not necessarily produce the most delicious teas.  While there are excellent tea producers in the Boseong area (and I’ll be bogging about one soon) if you are looking for authentic completely Korea tea, you would not choose Boseong as your only destination.  The key to great tea like great people doesn’t lie in their outward appearance.

Hwagae's tea growing on rugged terrain.
Likewise, Hwagae Valley should not be your only stop for wild and semi wild tea bushes.  Dotted across the southern tier of Korea, from the east coast to the west coast, wild and semi-wild tea bushes can be found.  Many independent tea growers have replanted those wild Hadong cultivar seeds in rows, often like small gardens behind their homes or even in large green houses to create personal semi-wild bushes for easier picking and to make their personal tea.
What might picking tealeaves be like?  Before I look further at this topic, I have to note that I will not be referencing the books The Korean Way of Tea or Korean Tea Classics for historical notes on picking.  Rather I simply want to give you a sense of what the pickers are experiencing.

Here is our group on Tea Tour Korea 2011 picking tea behind Hwaom-sa and the Hall of Gucheung-am in a very rugged wild tea field where the bamboo had been recently cut to ‘prevent fire’.  But the bushes, some several centuries old, now often suffer from drought and to quote Brother Anthony, “Snakes seem happy to frequent their roots.”  The hill is steep and footing rugged and very uneven.  We nearly had a disaster when one of our members fell landing between pointed bamboo stakes.  After 2+ hours of hard picking our group of 10 pickers had just this amount of tea to show for our work.  I spoke to one of the members of that group .  When I told him that I was writing a post on picking, he said, “Don’t forget to tell them the picking was excruciating.”

It was a remarkable experience but we won’t be picking there again.  Hwaomsa a beautiful place to visit, lying among thick woodlands on the western slopes of Jiri-san near Gurye-gu.  It is one of the first places where tea was planted in Korea.  Had they not cut the bamboo, that tea would have been called juk-no-cha 竹露茶 (bamboo-dew tea). To find authentic juk-no-cha 竹露茶 (bamboo-dew tea) we visited the artisan tea producer Ha Gu. 

Ha Gu makes delicious tea with leaves picked from wild bushes growing under bamboo and processed by hand over a wood flame and his teas demand a  higher price than most other artisan producers. I may offer his teas in a special TeaBuy.

Fourteen professional pickers, working for Ha Gu, took four hours of hard picking, in rough steep terrain, to gather just this amount of tea.  It is about 6 or 7 times more leaves than we amateur pickers gathered but when you realize how much tea shrinks in the drying process. This is still not much tea.  Simply put picking wild tea is difficult and sometimes dangerous work.
What are tea pickers looking for?  This is what they see:

This is what they are after. . .

 . . . just the three lead leaves.  The leaves on the left are what is know as ja soon cha or ‘purple tea leaves’ even though these particular leaves are more orange, the top of the larger leaf does have a purple tint.  This is caused by cold nights and warmer days resulting in the need for phosphorous.  But these are wild or semi-wild organic bushes so they will not be adding phosphorous and the pickers like these ja soon cha leaves in any case.  The leaves on the right illustrate more common leaves and were picked right after the image was taken.   I should say the leaves were “plucked”.  “Don’t use your fingernails to cut the stem.  That will interrupt the flow of juices and qi.”  We were asked to simply grasp the stem and pull i.e. ‘pluck’ the leaves.
There is little wonder why tea farmers from those with small gardens to commercial producers have planted tea bushes in rows for easier plucking.

While these organized bushes behind Dong Cheon Tea may look similar in form to Boseong bushes, these are semi-wild bushes.

The bushes are cared for and monitored – yes - but these bushes are organically grown with no insecticides or chemical fertilizer – simply allowed to grow in the same manner as wild bushes. 
Dong Cheon is a cooperative of about 80 tea farmers each growing tea using strict organic procedures.  Because the farms are scattered throughout the Hwagae Valley area, an area that can experience wide weather conditions, even after the harshest winter Dong Cheon Tea can continue to produce excellent teas. 

Special Note:
To learn about a possible TeaTour Korea that would take place in May of next year and host between 4 and 8 guests, contact us.  Contact us now.  There is no obligation.   We also may organize a ceramic tour just before the tea tour beginning in April.  If interested in either tour or both, please contact us for more information. We will see what the coming year brings.

Note:  We seldom post the exact same post on two different blogs.  Our Morning Crane Tea blog is reserved more for informational topics while this Tea at Morning Crane Tea blog focuses specifically on our teas.  For this post I have made an exception so if you are interested in information about our teas, and there will be a lot more coming, please follow this blog.  We also have a morning Crane Tea Ware blog.  More importantly we now have a website Morning Earth Korea that is slowly pulling all of my many various blog posts together in one place.
Remember that although I have what some consider a nice logo and try to provide excellent Korean teas and tea ware I am not a big tea company.  I am just a potter and retired professor, trying to also promote Korean arts and culture. 
That is what I originally wrote but at the insistence of some tea friends I must add this. I have more than 60 years of work as a ceramic artist during which time I studied with two Japanese Intangible Culture Treasures a American "Saint of ceramics" and worked about a year in the studio of an internationally respected Korean potter in Korea.  I have only 40 so years of experience with Korean tea and no formal training just many years of research and discussions with tea masters, monks and others who know Korean tea far more than I ever will. It is in their blood. What little I have been able to retain I share with you. At the same time with my little knowledge, I often fine errors in the articles written by "tea experts" who try to write about Korean tea.    
If you have never tried any of our teas or bought any of our tea ware I hope that you will do so soon.  Search what independent tea blogs are saying about the teas at Morning Crane Tea.  Then tell us about it for a special discount. After considerable research we have selected a "stable" of Tea Producers including cooperatives, artisan and temple teas. We even offer the rare Ddokcha. We have offered teas by Internationally known producers as well.  
Each year and sometimes twice a year we have a special opportunity to special order tea through what we call TeaBuy Korea. These are typically offered from the end of March until the Middle of June. If it is past he middle of June when you read this, you missed it. Contact us anyway to be informed of the next opportunity or to be placed on the TeaWare Buy Korea. Please contact us and like us on Facebook
Please continue to Part 2

Monday, July 1, 2013

2013 Korean Tea Sale and Announcing Tea Flight Pricing

As you may know, Morning Crane Tea is primarily a wholesale company supplying our Dong Cheon teas to teashops.  But we do have a retail business as well for those who don’t have easy access to one of those retail shops and for teas the retail shops don’t or can’t offer.  We have access to a number of artisan tea producers as well and will be reporting on and offering them soon.

We want to give you a sense of the prices for our 2013 teas and to introduce you to our special discount prices.  All of these teas, with the exception of our Darjeeling – Treasure Gold, are grown on Jirisan, Korea’s ‘holy mountain’ for tea, from wild or semi-wild bushes under organic growing conditions and are certified as such in Korea.  Treasure Gold is grown under similar conditions but in India.  Some teas are both hand picked and hand processed, others are hand picked machine processed and some machine picked and processed.  After years of tasting teas and comparing machine produced teas with hand produced teas from many producers, I have come to the conclusion that it is more the master producer than the method of production that determines taste.  True, hand picking and hand processing produces better leaf quality, but leaf quality alone doesn’t determine taste.  What does determine taste?  Wait for another post.

In addition to our special sale prices, for 2013 we are introducing “Tea Flight” pricing.  For 3 or more different teas purchased, the price does down with each different tea for most of our teas up to 8 different teas.  Why not offer the same discount on all of our teas?  Simply put we charge so little markup on several of our teas that if we gave the same discount we would have no profit.  We are trying to give you the best prices possible for these teas.  Why not give these prices throughout the year?  If you have purchased teas from us before, you know we work with you on pricing throughout the year.  Our goal is to promote these teas but we must also maintain a minimal profit margin to continue this work.  In addition, after making a Tea Flight purchase, you retain that price for the year 2013 on replacement orders no matter how many bags you reorder.  Contact us for Tea Flight pricing on the teas you want to try.

The Tea Sale Prices to introduce our 2013 teas are no longer available. Contact us to learn how you can obtain our teas at great prices.

 Click image to enlarge
Note: *Treasure Gold list and 1-2 bag discount prices are for 40g. The Woojeon is the good stuff and sells for more than $100 per 100g in Korea.  There are 2 Sejaks, a Mu-Wi Sejak slightly lighter than the classic Sejak;  3 Vintage Dan-Chas - Dan-Cha Gaya V08, dark and roasty, Dan-Cha Silla V10, also dark and roasty but different and both from great years for tea and Dan-Cha Malgal V12 a lighter very different Dan-Cha.  Dan-Cha's are also known as hongcha red teas.

Diminishing Tea Flight Prices on 3 or more bags will be available until August 31, 2013.  Then Tea Flight Prices may be revised.  Three (3) bag discounts are slightly higher than 4 bag discounts. Five (5) Bag discounts are slightly lower than four (4) bag discounts etc.  Prices are based on orders of different teas i.e. “Tea Flights”.
Note: Tea Flight Prices are available in 50g, 40g, 25g and 15g sizes.  Retail shops may contact us for 10g 'tea tastes'.

Morning Crane Tea’s goal is to make quality Korean teas available to you.  Contact us with your orders, questions and comments.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Darjeeling Among Us

What? You haven't tried this tea yet?  Only 15K were produced and we have one of them.  It is going fast and when it is gone it is gone.

We first learned of the  very special tea Treasure Gold, an autumnal Darjeeling from the Oakyti Plantation, from our good friend Frank Benjowski owner of Teehandelshaus Benjowski in Berlin, Germany.  Frank is a passionate teashop owner and connoisseur who has traveled the world in search of special teas for his impressive teashop. 
Frank is particularly known for his knowledge of Nepalese and Indian teas some of which are available exclusively at his shop.  It is from him that we obtained this wonderful tea.
Treasure Gold’s story and why we decided to add it to the tea inventory of Morning Crane Tea, a primarily Korean tea company, is fascinating.  Of special note, you may wonder why only 15 kilo were made this year and why it is not available every year.  This is truly a very rare tea.  Click here for the full story.  You won't regret it.  
Let's simply look at and vicariously taste the tea. 
I am first struck with the amazing bouquet emanating from the container - the rich flavor permeates the air, envelops me and draws me in.  The leaves are rich and varied and obviously all gold.  Only the drying and oxidation has changed them, imbuing each with a delectable provocative flavor.
On closer examination we discover tiny ‘hairs’ covering the leaves.  They must contribute to the savory taste that follows.  Are these the same coveted tiny hairs found on orange pekoe leaves?
For this tasting, I decided to use 4.25g of leaves in an 8oz glass teapot.  Although the pot is a little large, I wanted to show you the leaves in action and the rich color of the liquor. 8oz is as large as I personally go when brewing any tea.

This image is of the first infusion taken about 10-15 seconds after pouring the water; i.e. pour the water grab the camera and take the shot. 

With the first sip, I am struck at the abundant qi-cha that hits me quickly.  The tea is not bitter but rather smooth and tasty with floral hints that coat the mouth and tongue - slightly sweet with subtle spice and notes of citrus.  The taste is deep and long, holding its own after four infusions and it could have gone several more but I was eager to write this post.  In addition, with 8oz for each infusion, I was drinking a lot of tea.  Sorry, being a potter, I’m still not one who is good at describing taste.  Hopefully I can give you a sense of the experience.
This image is after 3 infusions.

After four infusions I decided to image the leaves. 

They have not yet begun to open and, as I said, they seem to have much more to offer.  I’m not familiar with Darjeeling teas.  Will these leaves ever open?

Long after drinking the last cup, I was struck with the still lingering ‘mouth memory’ of this wonderful tea.

Your special price:
$15.00 for 40g when purchased with any other of our premium teas. 
$16.00 for 40g when purchased alone.  Ask for Tea Flight prices on 3 or more different teas. 
Sorry we have a very limited supply so, for now, only one bag per customer.  Contact us.
I should end by saying a word about the cup.  
I selected a beautifully simple celadon cup of a perfect color for this tea.  The cup was made by the wonderful female ceramic artist Kim Yu Sung.  Kim Yu Sung is one of the only female celadon artists to have won the prestigious Gangjin Celadon Award at Gangjin Korea’s annual celadon competition held each year during the Gangjin Celadon Festival.  Receiving this award placed her among the nation’s best celadon artists.  I particularly like celadon for these darker teas - the perfect cup for this delicious tea. 
We will soon have Kim Yu Sung's beautiful tea ware available here at Morning Crane Tea. Click here to learn more about the cup.  Contact us if you would like to learn more about Kim Yu Sung and the other new tea ware artists we are making available this year.