Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tea and Time: Two Different 2010 Saejak Nokcha Teas

This lovely sunny day called for something special. And since I started it by watching Kim Ki-duk's highly praised film "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring", I've decided to continue in a similar Korean spirit – by drinking two teas I've had at home for more than a week already.

Samples of these two Korean greens, along with two other yellow teas were kindly sent to me from French CoreaColor. Both of them are of Saejak grade and were picked before the end of April 2010. I'm not sure about the exact area of origin of these teas, but, considering information found on CoreaColor website, my guess would be Jiri Mountain (correct me if I'm wrong).

Originally, these samples were labeled by stickers with numbers 1 and 4, but, unfortunately, these glued off on their way here – therefore, I will use letters “A” and “B” to distinguish them, preparing both teas at the same time.

left: A, right: B

The first obvious difference can be spotted on the dry leaf – these two Saejaks come from two different family companies and thus, the leaves are quite different from each other with A being smaller and more curled than B (though not that much smaller as it may seem in the picture – I wasn't able to take both photos from the exact same distance and angle). Smell of both teas is already clearly affected by their age - more than one year after harvest, most of the freshness these teas definitely used to possess is already gone. Even so, I can still sense remains of the typical scent I personally tend to associate with Korean greens, something “forest-like” and nutty. Naturally, there is a difference between these two teas – A is a bit more intensive and slightly acidic while B seems to smell more humble, deeper and nuttier. After being placed into the preheated Shiboridashi pots, smell of both teas significantly changes – as if the heat retrieved more of its original fresh character.

top: A, bottom: B

Being infused many times, more differences between these teas gradually reveal – both teas have very transparent, clear brew, though A is more yellowish in color than B, which is more of a light green. Taste is very similar to dry leaf's smell in many aspects – A is less nutty, more intensive and somehow “sour” - though it isn't exactly the most annoying kind of sourness, I believe it wasn't present when this tea was fresh. B, on the other hand, is lighter and nuttier in taste with still noticeable creamy sweetness. Very similar results can be found in all infusions as well as their aftertastes, which are generally stronger and more acidic for A and sweeter and more humble for B. I stopped brewing A after the third infusion, as I no longer found it interesting – B, on the other hand, was still able to produce a few more enjoyable brews.

left: A, right: B

Personally, I've enjoyed B more than A. The result might have been different if these teas were in their fresh state – but like this, I think B did better job in withstanding the effects of time, preserving more of its former beauty.

This can also be seen on the spare leaves – B seems greener and somehow more lively than the light-yellowish A. Drinking these teas indeed was an interesting experience – both as a study of time's effects on different green teas as well as the general broadening of my Korean tea experience. Thanks, once again.


  1. I have been drinking an ujeon grade green tea that I bought last month in Hwagae Valley from the tea master at woomung teas. The difference between a year old green tea and a fresh one, will be rather significant, although not without some enjoyment if brewed properly. I take about 3.5g and put it into an 80ml vessel. I have started drinking these greens at a higher temperature, 65-70C for about a minute and find more flavor from them than I used to get at lower temps. The sourness you talk about can be a part of the flavor profile but only subtly. Can you taste the bready quality of the teas? Quite different than Japanese teas, IMO.

  2. Ho Go,
    seems like I happened to use almost the same brewing parameters - I used exactly 3,5g for both teas and brewed them in my 80ml shibos, starting with 70C. I would probably normally use a bit cooler water, but somehow, I felt that if I want to get something enjoyable from these already-not-so-fresh greens, higher temperature would be the best way to do so.
    Yes, the bready quality indeed was present, though I once again think B sample had preserved much more of it than A.
    Yesterday, I've purchased the fresh Hadong Saejak offered on Darjeeling.cz. And I have noticed that Teamountain is going to offer various teas by tea masters Kim Jong Yeol and Kim Shin Ho soon - seems like this season is going to be much more "Korean" for me than any before. :-)