All the Tea in….Korea

Imagine a hill, rippling with rows and rows of bright green tea bushes. This is the Daehan Dawon Green Tea Garden. On our recent stay in South Korea, our host drove us to this plantation in Jeollanam Province near the town of Boseong in southwest Korea. There are many smaller tea plantations in the Boseong area, but the Daehan Dawon Green Tea Garden is the largest and has been featured in many Korean movies. Supposedly it’s ranked as one of Korea’s top tourist attractions, for Koreans and international visitors alike. We discovered that it’s a popular spot with Korean tourists year-round, and it’s certainly in a stunning setting.

 the entrance gate doesn’t prepare you for the amazing view of tea bushes after about a 10-minute walk

The entrance gate doesn’t prepare you for the amazing view of tea bushes

We approached the entrance along the lovely path lined with cedars along a small stream. Ahead rose a steep hill covered in cultivated tea bushes that curve in rows following the contour of the hill. It’s amazing to see so many bushes in one place, and growing on such a steep slope. It was lovely to just wander along the paths, trying for that elusive, perfect photo. It was pretty crowded, but the area is large enough to absorb the crowds.

candy is just one of so many products made of green tea

Candy is just one of so many products made of green tea

It’s a beautiful sight, with the rows of tea bushes at high elevation surrounded by forests. Visually, it’s a great spectacle, and it’s educational if you read the few information boards. However, the focus did seem to be more on eating and drinking with a tea theme. We thought they could do better in explaining how they process tea, what the differences are between green tea and black tea, and a history of tea in Korea, for example.

 the cold green tea noodle dish was delicious

The cold green tea noodle dish was delicious

What we did learn was about the four grades of tea, all organically grown and produced based on the seasons. In Korea, tea leaves are collected three or four times a year, and the taste and quality depend on the time of picking. Woojeon Tea is made from the first young leaves picked after winter. It’s a premium tea produced in very limited quantities. Sejak is the most popular green tea made from leaves picked during the first part of May before the leaf is fully matured. Joongjak is made from leaves ripened a bit more, has a fuller taste, and is picked by the end of May. Ipha is made from fully ripened leaves picked in June and July.

In very early days, tea was cultivated in Buddhist temples, but cultivation became more widespread in this area during the Jeoseon Dynasty, as climate and soil were ideally suited.

the author’s husband enjoys lunch at the café, with the most amazing view

The author’s husband enjoying lunch at the café with the most amazing view

The Daehan Dawon Green Tea Garden started in 1939, but it was devastated during the Korean War. In 1957, the garden and surrounding woods were taken over privately and built up again. Over time, millions of tea bushes and other decorative trees, such as cedar, cypress, juniper, ginkgo, maple, bamboo, cherry, and magnolia, were planted, creating a natural ecological area that gives shelter to many kinds of animals, birds, and insects.

steep steps lead you up past some tea bushes to terraces of hundreds of tea bushes

Steep steps lead you past tea bushes to terraces with hundreds of more tea bushes

It was also interesting for us to put this garden into context; it’s producing green tea, which is so famous and popular in many East Asian countries. We grew up in British colonial culture, in which black tea is popular. I’ve tried green tea in China, Japan, and at home, as many of our students bring it as gift. Of course, green tea ice-cream has become very popular in recent years.

from the top of the hill you get a sweeping view over part of the tea plantation

A sweeping view over part of the tea plantation from atop the hill.

I’ve never seen so many products that use green tea as we had discovered here. Noodles, rice, candy, face creams, face packs, green tea bath packs, body lotions, and sun block. Green tea also has the connotation and reputation of being healthy, and is also know to help with food poisoning and motion sickness. Therefore, any of these products would supposedly be healthier for you than one without green tea. The shops were all doing brisk business, and I’m sure any of these items would make great gifts or souvenirs.

Lunch with a view 

the author and her husband, Rod Mackie, with a backdrop of tea bushes (each of those rows is made up of hundreds of tea bushes)

The author and her husband, Rod Mackie, with a backdrop of tea bushes (each of those rows is made up of hundreds of tea bushes)

We had lunch at the DaWon ShimTe Cafetaria. The food was delicious and with a tremendous view across to the tea slopes. I had cold green tea noodles, and my husband and our host had green rice bibimbap (rice with meat and vegetables). You can also buy green tea shakes and green tea yoghurt. We opted for green tea ice-cream at a small shop before leaving.

Daehan Dawon Green Tea Garden is definitely worth a visit, offering a wonderful opportunity to learn about green tea and its role in Asian culture.

The garden is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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