Tea and Travel World Tea Expo

Live from World Tea Expo 2012: Saturday June 2nd

A Taste of Korea

Taegeuk - The National symbol for South Korean

I’ve been enjoying Korean green tea for a few years now. Last year I was introduced to some very fine green teas at WTE. This year Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corp. decided to step up their promotional campaign. Representatives of Korea’s tea industry have a “pavilion” on the Expo floor, where from booths 232 to 239 you can sample teas and visit with Korean delegates. This afternoon they invited influencers and tea writers to taste and believe. I was very pleased to be there to learn more about the country that I would be visiting this summer.

Korean tea culture has been around for over 1000 years. Green teas are the stars of Korean pure tea. They are known for their fresh vegetal flavour and soft finish. The presentation highlighted a few pure teas but mostly concentrated on the herbal infusions that are part of Korean daily healthy life. The tea that surprised me most was pure Bamboo tea from Bambusland. I had tasted a fruity version on the floor, but preferred the fresh brightness of the plain. Bamboo contains silica (not sure in what quantities) which is supposedly good for the nails and skin.

Left - the dry and wet leaf of bamboo tea from Bambusland has a physical resemblance to Camellia Sinensis. On the right - pale refreshing liquor of bamboo tea

A bit of confusion arose when the presenters were asked about Ja Cheong Bee – a golden tea. Several people attempted to explain, interpret and intervene. It was finally determined that Ja Cheong Bee was a slightly oxidized pure CS tea.

In their HanBok traditional dresses - An Agro Fisheries representative (right) explaining Ja Cheong Bee tea and being interpreted by another representative on the left

In our household, marmalade plays a big role at breakfast time. At a Korean supermarket recently we spotted what looked to be a very large jar of marmalade. We almost bought it but read that it was Citron Tea. My first thought was that it would be too sweet. While on the Expo floor I tasted it properly prepared by Bokumjari Tea and loved it. Here’s how: 1 large teaspoon of the syrupy citron “jam” to 1 cup of boiling water. It’s lemony goodness is real and the bonus is that you get to eat the hefty pieces of zest in the bottom of the cup when you’ve finished.

Lemony, zesty and good for your throat - Korean Citron tea. This sample had smaller "zests" than most

The Pride of Gordonton

Jeff Howell is a New Zealander and is passionate about the product he represents. He knows the story of Zealong from its very beginnings. He told me of the company’s dreams and false starts including a story about a government quarantine of 1500 plants that would rival the bungled delivery of Robert Fortune’s precious plants in Calcutta’s 1850’s. Founder,Vincent Chen’s cuttings, imported from Taiwan were held in quarantine by government officials for a few months with the promise that they would water them and look after them. When they were released from quarantine and collected by Chen, only 150 of the 1500 plants were alive. Most start ups would have given up at this point, but Vincent observed that these 150 plants were the survivors and they would make the best parents for his future tea plantation.

I tasted Aromatic and Dark , both of which possessed, respectively the fragrance and earthiness that one would expect from a premium Oolong. My visit with Zealong was cut short as “last call” on the exhibit floor was being announced. I’ve heard that Zealong has entered the world of black teas and I’ll be returning on Sunday to give it a try.

Zealong teas: Pure, Aromatic, Dark and Black

It’s now Day 3 and soon I’ll be on the Expo floor again. Last WTE post tomorrow!