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So how I wound up in a tiny little green tea farming town on my Children's Day last week is a very interesting story. Evidently, every year this little town, which happens to be the birthplace of Korean green tea, holds a green tea festival in the spring. This year they wanted to give a more international flair to the celebrations, so they decided to invite a bunch of foreigners down, free of charge, more or less to make the town look like a world renown place where not only Koreans visit, but foreigners flock to every year to celebrate the wonders of green tea. So, the boyfriend just happened to know someone who knew someone who was looking for a big bunch of foreigners to go down on this hosted trip. So we got our whole Saturday Korean class to go down and check out what was going on. Now, frankly speaking, driving 4.5 hours south and back in one day is not generally what I'd call a good time, no matter what was going on down there, but... when they offer free bus, guide and travel insurance for the day, it's hard to say no.
So, anyway, at 7 am we all met in Jamsil (which is not so close to my house by the way... on my day off...) and we boarded the bus south. We got there just in time for lunch. I think just about everyone ordered one of the area's specialties, 산재비빔밥 sanchebibimbap, or literally, mountain vegetable bibimbap. It was quite tasty, and a bit different from your average bibimbap in Seoul.
After lunch the first stop was a large, historic temple. From everything we could determine from the signage (which was actually well translated into English for once) it seems as if this temple never burned down... which tends to be the story behind every temple in Korea. Generally they've all been burned down at least once, usually by Japanese.
The temple was especially beautiful because of all the Buddha's Birthday decorations all over the place (note the lanterns hanging here)
Next we had a Green Tea picking experience. We were all allowed onto a hillside where green tea bushes grow somewhat wildly. They explained to us that if we pick the smallest leaves, those are the best tasting leaves and the highest quality leaves. So we all spent about 15 minutes roaming around and picking green tea leaves. We were able to take the leaves home with us to make our own tea from the leaves we picked ourselves.
Then we moved on to a green tea roasting experience. After tea leaves are picked, they are roasted by hand in big, round, 200˚C roasting pans for a few minutes, rubbed down on a mat, dried, then later again roasted, rubbed down and dried again for a total of 3 times before it is tea that they sell.
We did the process once, to get the idea, then we were given fully dried tea to take home with us. When you put the tea into the hot water, the tea leaves open up again and look like they were just picked.
After this, we were brought to a tea ceremony where we were taught the correct way to drink tea to enjoy the full flavor and meditate. If you're curious about how to do this, you must first grasp the cup correctly with two hands. First, hold it at your stomach while sitting up straight. Then bring it to your chest and enjoy the scent of the tea. Then take it to your mouth and drink 1/3 of the cup while enjoying and contemplating the taste of the tea. Then bring the cup back down. You can take 2 more sips in the same manner to finish your cup and fully enjoy the tea.
After this, we were allowed about an hour to roam around the festival and check out the various booths that were selling things (and giving out lots of free samples). We didn't buy anything except (randomly) some eggs from green tea fed chickens.... it was 3,000 won for 10 eggs (they don't sell in dozens here.... a dozen is kind of a random number if you think about it... in the metric system at least) which is what I usually pay for quite a few more eggs than that.... but maybe they're more healthy?
After wandering around for a while and having a dinner of green tea 전 (pancake) we rushed back to the bus to leave early, anticipating huge traffic jams from everyone returning to Seoul after a day outside the city. Fortunately, we sailed back to Seoul without a problem... I've never seen that happen before... but usually I'm coming in from the east, not the south... that must be the difference I guess.
If you want more information about the festival, you can check out the website here:
You can find some photos of us along with some information about Hadong and green tea.