Friday, November 8, 2013

Yi Ho Yeong, Brother Anthony's Tea Friend: Part 2

Have you read Part 1?
Serving Tea
We had traveled thousands of miles by plane and private bus and walked what seemed like a hundred more until finally we were in the ‘holy’ mountain of Korean tea.  Tea is so compelling, the artisan producers each with their own story - each with their own reasons for being with tea.
It’s simply about tea - tea and fire and the amazing skills of knowledgeable artisan tea producers like Yi Ho Yeong and Lim Jeong Jin. 

The tender tea leaf picked by hand, joined with a thousand more, 

and processed over a wooden fire for hours – again by hand.  That is Korean tea.  In many ways Yi Ho Yeong embodies Korean tea as she and her friend Lim Jeong Jin continue this centuries old tea processing tradition. Watching them do so is mesmerizing.  The gentle warmth from her tea processing wood fire transports me to a time and place far from the busy crowd, far from the 21st century, into a time and place of peace and tranquility.  For me, that is one of the main reasons I personally ‘do tea‘ every day - simply to escape for a moment, wherever I am, to that place of peace and tranquility.  When you visit with Yi Ho Yeong you know you have arrived.  You are in that place of peace and tranquility.

Now Yi Ho Yeong has invited us into her home to sit for a moment and taste their newest production.  It is 2013.  The winter has been harsh on the leaves and the spring weather has been so cold it was difficult to pick.   They are about two weeks behind in this year’s production.  We didn’t arrive at the best time for our artisan producers.  But we are grateful that they allowed us to visit. That any of them allowed us to visit.  We enter her home.

If you didn’t know it before, stepping inside you become immediately aware that Tea is her passion and way of life.  The rooms are filled with tea ware.  These combined images may look disorganized but the opposite is true.  Still everywhere you look is a teapot, chawan, platter for food, a row of teacups, or a side handled teapot - a classic and traditional Korean style.  Please don’t give credit for side handled teapots to another country even if they want it.
The Tea Tour Korea group sits around the table in anticipation.  The table is prepared. 

Yi Ho Yeong joins us and sets her teacups before her.  They are pure white so that we observe the color of her delicate tea.  The side handled teapot and cooling bowl are at hand. 

Hot water is poured into the cooling bowl, then a moment later poured into the empty teapot.  Water from the teapot is poured into all the cups. 

That water warms the cups as she selects her bamboo scoop and scoops just the right amount of tealeaves into the now empty teapot.  Water, cooled to the perfect temperature, joins the leaves awakening them and drawing from them their essence.  

Less than a moment later she pours the tea through a strainer into the cooling bowl.  Yes the teapot has a strainer but these leaves are small, tiny actually and the strainer is needed to catch the errant leaf.

The cup warming water is discarded and the tea is served.  It is wonderfully fresh and delights my 'tea' palate.  Bret at the Tea Dork blog wrote this after he tasted this tea.  “The aroma from the dry leaf is pristine, clean and sweet. Notes of pine, grain and florals. Very pungent but not heavy. Why can’t all my green teas smell so gorgeous?”  We felt the same.
We savor the tea - delicious.  It is a tea she simply calls her ‘special tea’.  I'll do a post on it on our tea blog soon.

I pause to look more carefully at her tea ware and implements.  
In the background is a water bowl, then teapot, cooling bowl with large bamboo strainer, large bamboo scoop and wooden saucers for the cups.  Wood to reduce the sound.  A cloth is nearby.  It is a perfect grouping for a group tea.
We have had our first cup - delicious.  

Then with subsequent cups a delicious tealeaf pajun (pajeon) or Korean pancake is served.  Those green leaves are not scallions – they are tealeaves!  Again delicious.  The group liked it so much she made more.   

Yi Ho Yeong in 2011
Our visits with Yi Ho Yeong have always been memorable and this one was no exception - a remarkable moment and so Korean.  There is always a sense of peace in the air as Yi Ho Yeong is such a gentle and peaceful lady and a master of both tea and peaceful moments.

Even the walk from her home is peaceful.  I’m sure our tour members will remember the visit with Yi Ho Yeong for years to come.  
To learn how you can obtain her teas*, contact us.  Contact us also if you would like to learn more about our next Tea Tour Korea coming next May.  

Thank you Brother Anthony for introducing us to the remarkable tea producer Yi Ho Yeong.
*It is with a very heavy heart that I must announce that Yi Ho Yeong passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in January 2016.  Thankfully, her son has insured that her tea legacy will continue with her disciples, including Lim Jong Jin, making tea from her bushes at her facility in her manner.  To honor Yi Ho Yeong, we will visit them on our subsequent tea tours.

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