Quick, what you do know about traditional Korean tea ceremonies? Is the answer nothing? Ding, ding! Well, what do you know, that’s my answer too. Or, at least it was until I went to The Korea Society in New York to watch a traditional Korean tea ceremony a few weeks ago with Sara of Tea Happiness. There is a museum called Hagajae in Seoul with a tea ceremony program and they flew in from Korea to demonstrate. First there was a lecture by Dr. Roy Ghim, president of the museum, on how the Korean tea culture developed — it was fascinating!
After the lecture, a tea ceremony demonstration showed how traditional powered green tea is prepared.
Korean tea history is steeped (that’s right, pun intended) in China and Japan’s tea culture — it’s smack right in the middle of the two. China’s tea ceremony is full of flourishes and elongated arm and hand movements like a dance while the Japanese version is a lot more purposeful (almost robotic). The Korean tea ceremony is a mix of the two styles — not as formal as the Japanese and with more natural ease of movement than the Chinese.
After the tea has been prepared, it is served with some traditional Korean sweets. To drink the tea, you take the bowl and hold it at the base with your left hand, then turn it a bit with your right hand on the side of the bowl. You don’t put the bowl down until you’re finished and you drink it all in 3 – 5 sips.
After the ceremony, Korean wild green tea was served along with some Korean snacks.
I’m Korean and I know very little of our tea history and in general, tea in Korea. I grew up drinking tea every day, but it’s usually barley or roasted corn that I drink instead of water.
The lecture sparked a curiosity in me and made me want to learn more about Korean tea. I talked to the Hagajae Museum team and they welcomed me to learn from them in Korea which in itself is an exciting thought, so I definitely want to do that at some point in the future. But while I’m here in the States, I decided to learn more about tea than just enjoying sips at an afternoon tea so since then, I started taking a Tea Sommelier course with a tea school based in Canada. I’m learning a ton and loving it. Come on, ask me what imperial picking is! (It’s the picking of a bud and one leaf.) More to come about my Tea Sommelier course on a future post…