Written by our guest blogger @thatgaiwangirl
@thatgaiwangirl is the Instagram handle of Nat, a Singapore-based tea enthusiast. Her first memory of the brew was a cloudy Lipton in a chipped souvenir mug, and since then her tea journey has taken her from guzzling gallons of mint tea in Istanbul to discovering gyokuro in a Tokyo bar. She still has much to learn, and, thankfully, has maintained the learner’s enthusiasm. The mug that started it all retains pride of place in the family home, next to the kitchen sink.
The leaves of Chung-il jem are twisted, curling, almost alive in their dynamism. In the warmed teapot (cha-gwan), they release an aroma of grass and warm honey, with a reminder of sandalwood, as though it had been dropped into the pot, then removed. There was a note of old woods in there too, persistent yet gentle.
In the spirit of the Korean tea ceremony (though with far less finesse), I poured hot water into a cooling bowl, or suk-u, then emptied it into the teapot. There was no need to rinse the tea; for thirty seconds, it steeped.
In Korean tea-growing, the trees are left to Nature, allowed to develop without being trimmed or used in grafting, and without added fertiliser. Though the growing time is longer and the hand-plucked batches smaller, the trees are able to grow deeper roots, absorbing nutrients and minerals that might not be present in other teas. This full, rich taste of time and purity makes itself known from the first drop. Grassy, nutty and buttery, the tea brims with vitality in the mouth, and you are transported. You sip, and you find yourself at a temple that stands grey against a clear dawn. Tea bushes grow freely, sprawling around the building and stretching endlessly towards the horizon.
Sip. A stream appears, swift against glossy rocks. In the background, the tea plants sway, some up to your shoulder in height now. You empty the cup, and lean forward.
Second round of steeping now, and this time the flavour is more intense, more complex. There’s earth and minerality and a strange, refreshing coolness in the middle of the mouth.
Before I knew it the session was over, and I longed to go back to the tea again, to hear the rest of its story.
Here’s what I hope will happen for you, tea friend. As you brew this for yourself, sometime in the late morning on your day off, then take your first sip, you too will be taken somewhere new. And, in that transcendent experience, you’ll see the forests of the Land of Morning Calm, and, ever so faintly, catch the sound of a temple’s wind-bell.
Origin: Hadong, South Korea
Harvest time: 2020
Leaf colour: Ash brown-green, with flecks of lighter brown
Liquor colour: green-yellow
Tea aroma: Grassy, herbaceous, with some rare wood
Tea taste: Vegetal, with some umami. Distinct earthiness, especially in subsequent brews. Thick texture
From the producer
Recommended grams of tea leaves: 2-4g
Recommended water volume: 100ml
Recommended time for infusion: 30 seconds (first) + 10 seconds for each additional infusion
Recommended water temperature: 80C (176F) or above
Shelf life: Some have said that this green tea can be stored for up to 2 years. While this may be so, I prefer to consume mine within 6 months.