Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Returning from Tea Tour Korea 2013 with a Darjeeling !?!

Tea Tour Korea 2013 was an extraordinary adventure into Korean tea ware and Korean tea.  In the process we identified more than twenty Korean teas we would like you to try plus a delicious Darjeeling.  “What!  A Darjeeling !!???!?”, you might exclaim.  “How did a tea tour to Korea come back with a Darjeeling? 

We thought you might ask so I decided I would get that question and this tea ‘on its way’ before we introduce you to some truly amazing Korean teas, the classic and new Dong Cheon teas and their producers.

We first learned of the tea Treasure Gold 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.  Those who have been there, tell us that it is the best teashop in Europe.  Frank has personally visited tea plantations throughout the world traveling to each one alone.  The only tea tours he has ever taken have been with us on Tea Tour Korea 2011 and again on Tea Tour Korea 2013.  We are honored that he joined us.
Frank is particularly known for his knowledge of Nepalese and Indian teas some of which are available exclusively at his shop.  We first learned about Treasure Gold from him as a very special autumnal Nepalese tea (a Nepalese Darjeeling) when he shared it with us in 2011 and gave it as gifts to several tea and tea ware artists on that tour - to their great response.  Our version is officially a Darjeeling from the famous Oakyti plantation in India.
Treasure Gold’s story is fascinating.  Nepal and India share a common boarder separated by the Mechi River.  Citizens from both countries travel back and forth easily and even work in the other country.  The countries also share similar tea plants particularly in this small area.  Occasionally some of these plants develop a distinctive golden leaf.  One of the tea advisors oversees tea plants in both Nepal and India.  It is this advisor that produces this prize winning tea - Treasure Gold.  These leaves don’t develop every year but when they do he has the tea pickers harvest them for this special production.  

They may be harvested in Nepal or India and are always carefully picked and processed mostly by hand.  The production this season was very small - just 15 kilo.

Quick hands inspect the pick
Frank Benjowski buys them all, for he knows how delicious this tea is.  Because of the friendship we developed with Frank, he allowed us at Morning Crane Tea to purchase a kilo so we could offer it to you.

Let’s look at 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 as the coveted  tiny hairs on orange pekoe leaves?

For this tasting, I decided to use 4.25g of leaves in an 8oz glass teapot because 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 I was drinking a lot of tea.
Sorry, I’m still not one who is good at describing taste with each infusion, but 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?

As I type this post, now long after drinking the last cup, I am struck with the still lingering ‘mouth memory’ of this wonderful tea. 

I must end by saying a word about the cup.  

I selected a beautifully simple celadon cup of the 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. 
To learn more about how you might purchase some Treasure Gold go to our tea blog to learn the reasonable pricing on this rare tea. 
Kim Yu Sung is one of a group of tea ware artists whose work we will be introducing this year. Click here to learn more about the cup.
Were you looking for our 2013 teas?  Some of them can be found here.