CONTRIBUTED BY LAUREL SCHMOLZE ANDERSON
Do you like tea? I’ve always been fascinated with it. Growing up in the United States, tea wasn’t a huge thing in our house. We drank peppermint tea with lemon when we were sick. Sometimes there was Lipton black tea. I always had to add sugar. I knew that tea was huge in the UK, Asia, and other parts of the world, but I was most familiar with iced tea (then from my time in the south, sweet tea – which is a thing in it of itself). When I was in my teens my mother took me to a lovely hotel that had a traditional British tea ceremony. I remember different teas and some amazing scones. I think I left focused on the scones, not the tea.
My adult tea practice involves boiling water or heating water until it is kind of hot, digging around in my box of tea and dumping a bag of tea into some kind of mug, or cup if I couldn’t find a mug. I’d quickly add the water, and dunk the bag up and down to get the magic tea out and then drink it. With honey, probably, while playing on my iPhone. I know several of you who are tea enthusiasts probably are horrified with my irreverent and wrong way of drinking tea. Respect the tea? Different types of tea? Temperature? Not even on my radar. It’s a drink, and I like it most of the time. I knew that other cultures had different thoughts on tea. They practiced rituals, ceremonies, and serving tea was an entire event instead of something done haphazardly as in my experience. Boy was I ignorant. That being said, I was so excited when I had the chance to see a local tea group performing a Spring Tea Ceremony.
A little bit about the Korea Tea Ceremony
The Korean tea ceremony or Darye is a traditional form of tea ceremony practiced in Korea. Darye literally refers to “etiquette for tea” or “day tea rite” and has been kept among Korean people for a few thousand years. The main focus of the Korean tea ceremony is the ease and naturalness of enjoying tea within an easy formal setting.
This particular group brought the Tea Master who traveled from Gwangju to share her experience with us. We saw two kinds of tea ceremonies. There are at least 15 kinds of tea ceremonies but the two we experienced were both part of a Daily Tea Rite, which is seemed to be a meditative process of enjoying tea for oneself instead of serving to guests. The first ceremony used black tea, and the other was for matcha (a green powdered tea and has a different preparation and separate ceremony). There was a very elaborate set up for the tea ceremony space. Woven mats were placed on the floor and there were beautifully painted scrolls standing behind the mats. The tea set is comprised of several different pieces each with a special role. People who practice daily tea rituals will leave their tea set placed at all times covered with a special cloth. The Tea set includes pieces shown here:
The tea ceremony process involves very slow, deliberate, meditative movements. They seemed almost reverent. The members of the group had been practicing anywhere from a year to eight years and were still considered “new” to the art. It was very beautiful to watch.
The first ceremony we saw was done by the Tea Master who was dressed in an elaborate hanbok. The steps included rinsing the teapot and cups with boiling water, pouring boiling water into the transfer bowl to cool it slightly, placing tea leaves in the teapot, hot water being poured into the teapot, brewed tea poured into the transfer bowl, tea poured into individual cups and enjoyed by the tea master. After she finished drinking her tea the ritual continued, cleaning the cup, transfer bowl, and pot before each was dried and replaced and the cloth once again covered the set.
I was able to take several pictures and a short video during this ceremony. This 1 minute clip shows the Tea Master adding tea leaves into the pot and pouring boiling water into the teapot. As you can see, something this simple is done slowly and perfectly.
Youtube video: http://youtu.be/VCD5n8z9OAg
The second ceremony for the matcha tea was performed by another member of the tea group who had been practicing for 8 years. This ceremony was very similar except it involved a wooden whisk used to mix and froth the green matcha tea powder with the water.
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to see much of the second ceremony so I found an interested article here (http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-whisk-a-bowl-of-matcha-139957) about the process including additional photos and video of the matcha tea process.
After the ceremonies we were able to try various types of tea, as well as a sweet fruit juice often served in summer.
It was a fantastic experience. If you want to see a traditional Korean tea ceremony of your own the following locations in Seoul are available:
3, Daesagwan-ro, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 성북구 대사관로 3 (성북동)
Directions: The nearest subway stops are Gwanghwamun Station (line 5), Gyeongbokgung Station (line 3), and City Hall Station (lines 1 and 2) where you can take a free shuttle bus. Shuttle buses run daily from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. If you wish to take a taxi from the subway station, the closest station would be Hyehwa Station on line 4.
• 1330 tt call center: +82-2-1330
(Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
• For more info: +82-2-765-3700 (Korean, English, Japanese)
Lounge Dawon: 10:00-22:00
12:00-15:00 / 18:00-22:00
Dawon – located in the garden of Kyungin Museum of Fine Art.
1-4, Insadong 10-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 인사동10길 11-4 (관훈동)
Website: (Korean) http://www.kyunginart.co.kr
At Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6 (Jongno Police Station direction), walk straight about 50m and turn right toward to Insa-dong one way. At the left side of the Sudo Pharmacy, walk straight more 30 m.
Tel: (02) 730-6305
Insa-dong Teahouse (Chatjip)
33-1, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 종로구 인사동길 33-1 (관훈동)
Anguk Station, Seoul Subway line 3, Exit #6
Tel: (02) 723-4909