By Andy Boone
A rare shipment of Korean tea has finally arrived at Happy Lucky’s! Opening the bags for the first time, deep aromas permeate into the nose. The color is a bright emerald, each leaf has been handled with thoughtfulness and care. These teas are exquisite, some of the most dynamic and interesting pure leaf teas to grace The Great Wall of Tea. They retain the deep green and chlorophyll-rich tones of a delicately processed green tea while embodying the warm nuttiness reminiscent of toasted rice found in teas given a hard sear from the wok. The flavors unify deep savory vegetal with a distinct sweet finish, combined into creaminess.
Happy Lucky’s Korean Teas come from semi-wild bushes with deep roots. They are produced by hand with artisanal style. The fresh plucked tea is dunked carefully and quickly into almost boiling water to arrest oxidation. Next they are seared by a master in a wok at temperatures of 800 degrees fahrenheit for about 15 seconds. .
The general idea is that a gentle kill green (oxidation blocking) followed by high temperature flash cooking in the wok allows the deep green and nutty flavors to combine in rare harmony. By stopping the oxidation so gently, more of the chlorophyll remains vital and the hot wok produces a chemical change in the outer layers of leaf, coaxing out the warm toastiness. Yet the tea is not in the wok long enough to make this change in the inner leaf. The results are remarkable! Embodying the classical qualities of both Chinese and Japanese green teas, yet retaining its own distinct character.
Happy Lucky’s is currently carrying 4 Korean teas. The names for our Korean tea indicate the developmental stage of the leaf.
Sejak is the very young small tender leaves which have just begun to open.
Jungjak is young open leaves,
Daejak are larger and more mature leafs.
Yipcha is only available in store, but we hope bring to the website soon.
Yipcha is the large fully developed summer plucking. Classically, Yipcha is the complementary tea served in restaurants in Korea. Yet, most Yipcha will not be produced with the same level of care and attention with which ours is crafted. The nature of small farm production displays more seasonal variation in climate than large farms which blend from several bushes to minimize any inconsistencies in flavor. Micro-productions tend to have different flavors from year to year. Last years Yipcha I would describe in a fairly similar way as our China Dragonwell or our Nepal Pokhara, nutty flavors upfront, then clean vegetal tones that linger with mineral rich honeysuckle sweetness. This years Yipcha hits the palate quite differently. The vegetal flavor carries a savory umami aspect while the nutty flavor seems to awaken more on the finish and hangs out for a bit.
I’m not sure which flavor profile your palate will prefer. However, it’s a real treat to taste the variation, I’m proud we’re able to offer teas of this quality and freshness from such a rare and limited production.
Notes on Brewing
Korean teas are very potent which can be a double edged sword. Tea this vital is rich in many compounds making it more sensitive to becoming astringent or bitter when over-brewed. Make sure your water is not too hot!. Water temperature in between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit is best. Use about 1 ¼ teaspoon for every 8oz. of brewed tea made, and steep for just 15-20 seconds. These teas resteep very well, so feel free to repeat this process and add just a few seconds to each subsequent brew. With this technique you should be able to brew the tea 3-5 times.