Last week we made the trek from Gimje to Gurye to spent a couple days on Mr. Hong’s tea field! It was one of the most memorable parts of the trip for me because everything I’ve learned about tea and it’s initial production process just came full circle for me. As a freshman joining the Institute last year, I thought that just by memorizing all of my notes I could do well on the test and drink my daily dose of tea. However, I never thought that the next year I would be using all of that knowledge in South Korea picking tea on a tea farm! Like when learning anything for the first time, the moment you get to use that knowledge in a real-world situation is always the moment when you truly grasp it. This was picking and processing green tea for me with Mr. Hong! We got to wear these phenomenal outfits while picking, giant hats, sunglasses, clothes that cover you fully, bags for the picked leaves and hiking boots!! It was awesome to pick tea leaves with the Halmays, the tea grandmothers, and just realize where the tea we drink everyday comes from. Those pu’er cakes or tightly rolled oolongs start out as small leaf and a bud pairings all over the tea bush. Then you see just how many bushes there are and how much work goes into the first process of tea production, picking the leaves. It was funny, I think the five of us picked half as much tea as one Halmay did, I don’t know how they do it! They’re just amazing, especially because they spend about 8 hours picking depending on the day!
Next, comes tea production and the first tea we made was Nokcha, green tea! After putting on headscarves, 5 layers of gloves, and an apron we started. First it goes through a shaqing, just getting the moisture out of the tea leaves on a giant wok. Four of us had to constantly move and shake the leaves in the wok so the were evenly heated. After the each shaqing you must cool and separate the tea leaves….and repeat! Nine times probably took about 2 hours two finish. It was a lot of work but it was so awesome to experience, definitely worth every drop of sweat! I loved every minute of it! I have learned from this trip just how many things we take for granted. All the hard work and time it takes to make tea, tea ware, and other parts of the different ceremonies should always be remembered. With each brew, I know I’ll forever remember the people who helped me enjoy a cup of my favorite beverage and appreciate all that they do!
Another cool thing is that we to keep the tea we made and bring it back to the Institute for everyone to try! So make sure you stop by the Penn State Tea House, when we get back during the Fall, to try the tea we put so much work and time into during our stay in Gurye! It’s great, I promise!
Till next time and hope to share a cup of Nokcha with you next semester!