Thursday, October 14, 2010

Welcome to Tea Tour Korea

Welcome to our Tea Tour Korea blog. 
Korea is a destination tourist spot for many Asian countries.  Its beautiful mountains with their wonderful mountain adventures,

Korea's Mountains Hold Many Adventures
historic sites, 

 Bulgoksa Korea's most Famous Temple

bargain prices and friendly people lure them to Korea for wonderful holidays and even weekend ‘getaways’. 
On our many travels to Korea we have been drawn to a very interesting conclusion -- tea is the secret ingredient to much of Korea’s rich culture.  Without tea, Buddhism would not be the same, pottery would not be the same - anywhere in the world– and we would be denied the second most consumed beverage in the world - next to water.  

 Bosong Tea After Harvesting

Tea is at Korea’s cultural heart.  Without tea, and the practices associated with it, one can say that we would not have as many artists of many types throughout this beautiful land - Korea. 
So when you join us on Tea Tour Korea 2011, you will be joining us on an adventure not just to sip some very special tea but also to watch Korea’s rich arts and culture unfold before you while enjoying an occasional cup of their wonderful tea.  You will go beyond ‘watching’ to ‘experiencing’ important aspects of Korea’s culture first hand.  If you are truly interested in learning about Korean culture, nothing could be better.

Farm Dancers

 Our posts will start simple and as we reveal more aspects of the tour our posts will grow in detail.  As our blog grows, we hope your interest will also grow. 
On Tea Tour Korea you will not only see or “visit” Korea you will EXPERIENCE Korea in ways seldom attempted ever before on any tour.  And sometimes you will find that like the dragonfly it is the simple things that often seem to matter most.
We hope that you will join us by following this blog.  It will begin slowly and build to reveal the true nature of what we are planning – perhaps to reveal Korea in ways you have never thought of before.  Please join us as we “touch the heart of Korea” through tea.

The Simple Things

Sokkuram Fog

Near the ancient Buddhist temple of Sokkuram, early in the spring, the mountain mist often settles among the trees as it has done this morning.  Many tourists slowly walk along this path in anticipation of seeing the ancient stone Buddha but few pause to enjoy the mist.

A Hand-formed Potter's Home
 Not many miles away, inside this home set high on another mountain, a tea ware artist slowly wakes from his sleep.  He discovers that his daughter moved her yo close to his and has slept beside him all night.  The artist built this home by hand from raw clay and trees.

 His wife, already awake, is in the kitchen making breakfast.

A Monk Visits His Wild 'Bamboo' Tea

A hundred miles east, behind another ancient temple, the morning mist begins to rise after kissing the newly emerged tiny tealeaves on Jirisan.   Morning prayers and meditation have finished and several monks walk slowly behind the temple through the still moist woods into the bamboo forest.  There, among the bamboo, they find wild tea plants and check the tea leaves to see how wet they are from the morning dew.  These leaves are still a little too wet.  The monks will wait until afternoon to pick them.
New sprouting tealeaves are abundant.  It is about time, the winter was cold and the tealeaves started emerging later than usual.  Brother Anthony and Hong Kyeong-hee, authors of The Korean Way of Tea, will visit this temple in the afternoon along with some international guests who want to experience the picking and making of nokcha.  Some will stay the night at the temple so the monks are preparing for their arrival.

 Min Young Ki's Kiln Waits
A short distance away, work gloves sit on the ledge of the kiln of one of Korea’s most famous tea masters.  The gloves are waiting for the potter to load the kiln.  It will be loaded today then fired by wood - a ritual preformed often in this old kiln.   We can hardly wait to see the results of this firing.

A Bosong Tea Plantation

A hundred miles further east we find the Bosong tea plantations.   This plantation is beautiful and the site of several movies.  A Bosong tea plantation was the first Korean tea plantation to receive the prestigious international ‘organic’ label.

O'Sulloc Tea Plantation, Gangjin
The great tea and celadon city of Gangjin is nearby.  A tea company in Gangjin is quickly becoming well known and obviously has plans to export Korean tea in the near future.

A 2009 Gangjin Celadon Incense Burner

Gangjin is the home of Gangjin celadon.   Twelfth century China considered the celadon of Korea to be ‘the finest celadon in the world’ – every other thing on the ‘finest’ list was Chinese.   Nearly 80 percent of the Goryeo Dynasty celadon found in Museums throughout the world was made in Gangjin.  Gangjin’s artists are quickly reclaiming the reputation of producing the finest celadon in the world with their twenty-first century work.  

At Baekryeonsa Gangjin's Famous Tea Temple

In a mountain temple a famous tea monk walks through a camellia forest to the temple’s tea area surrounded by trees.  There he will personally pick his tealeaves.  These leaves will be for Ujeon.  Later pickings will be for Sejak, Jungjak and Daejak or his special Ddokcha a rediscovery of the ancient methods of the famous Korean tea monk Cho-Ui who lived at this temple.

The Mungyeong Chassabal Festival Grounds

Nearly two-hundred miles northeast many tea ware artists, including some national treasures, are waking, eating their breakfast and preparing it go to their annual festival - the Mungyeong Chassabal Festival - where international tea ware artists from nearly thirty countries are also exhibiting.   Held in a famous movie set the Mungyeong Chassabal Festival may be the most picturesque festival in Korea. 

A Group of International Ceramic Artist

Some authorities consider it to be the best teabowl festival in the world.

Azaleas Bloom on the Beakdu-daegan

If you like to hike, you may even have the opportunity to hike a little on Korea’s famous Beakdu-daegan.   The views from the top of this mountain range are magnificent.  The Beakdu-daegan curves at Mungyeong.  We want to thank Roger Sheperd for permission to show some of his mountain photos.

The Moka Museum Home

In another home, not many miles away, at a beautiful compound museum, a national treasure Buddhist woodcarver greets his stepdaughter as she helps her mother-in-law prepare his morning tea.  Perhaps he will carve for us when we visit him.

Contemporary Tea Cups by Cho Young-Kook at the WOCEF Exhibit

In the same city, museum officials are busy preparing to go to their museum.  There is much work even now to organize the famous World Ceramic Exposition scheduled for October.

TOYO Greets WOCEF Visitors

We will visit these famous world-class ceramic exhibition halls during our 2011 tour.  As mentioned, the ceramic exposition for 2011 will open in October, a drastic change from most previous years.
Are you a little confused as to where you are in this beautiful land of Korea?  Don’t worry, we will guide you, in a more orderly fashion, as you visit these places, meet these people, and have experiences like these and many more on Tea Tour Korea 2011. 
While it carries the name “Tea Tour”, this tour encompasses far more than tea. 
Steeped in a variety of cultural experiences, well beyond what is mentioned above, this is the perfect tour to introduce anyone to Korea’s rich and varied culture – not just to view it – but to experience it.  This tour will touch the heart of Korea by visiting the artists (of several disciplines), tea areas, museums, temples and other places that make Korea’s culture what it is today.   Touch the heart of Korea and Korea may touch your heart in return.
Become a follower of this blog and register to learn more about Tea Tour Korea.  Email us at:
Please Include:
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Your mailing address and phone number are optional but appreciated so that we can send you information on Korea.   We keep the information private and in house.
We would appreciate it if you would include a short statement concerning your personal reasons for wanting to learn more about Korean arts and culture.
This blog is about developing Tea Tour Korea 2011 and will remain active after the tour.  Although we can’t promise you that we will ever plan another tea tour again – at least one on which we will be your hosts. 
Our goal is to make this May 2011 tour the most culturally rich Korean culture tour ever developed.  We hope that you will follow this blog as the tour develops and join us in May 2011 on what will be a fantastic journey through Korea’s rich culture.  We look forward to your comments and questions even suggestions.  Registration will provide you with extra and early tour updates, special opportunities and reserve your spot on Tea Tour Korea 2011– without obligation.  Visit for some additional information but be aware that this blog is the up-to-date site for Tea Tour Korea 2011.  The website will be updated later when we have more information.  In the meantime, last year’s information is there now – don’t get them confused.  Again, this blog is the up-to-date site for Tea Tour Korea 2011
Tea Tour Korea will take place in May 2011 and last for about 15 days.  The specific dates are coming soon.
We look forward to meeting you in Korea and to sharing some great Korean experiences with you.  Touch the heart of Korea.

Discussions on Korean tea and tea ware can be found at Morning Crane Tea blog and at dawan-chawan-chassabal blog.

The Korean Way of Tea

 To begin at the beginning of this blog, click here
There is something compelling about tea that goes far beyond the ordinary.  Each morning I sit with a Korean teacup, small, no handle, subtle in color and form, fitting my hand like no other.  It is filled with Korean green tea - picked early in the spring - warm to both the hand and heart.  Those moments take me away from the blur of daily life to peace and clarity.  For me, that is ‘tea’.
     I suppose each of us has their moment of ‘tea’ or we would not be interested in this web site.  We have discovered the compelling nature of tea.  For me that time comes from that perfect joining of Korean tea and Korean teacup.  
   This spring we hosted a small group of tea lovers and went into the mountains near Gangjin to visit Baekryeonsa an old temple where Cho Ui the great Korean tea masters once lived.   

Il Dam's 'Free brewed' Tea
While the monk Il Dam was ‘free serving’ us newly made green tea the great tea-master Ya Yeon returned from the temples tea garden where he had been picking tea and presented his collection to our group.  

Ya Yeon's Fresh Picked Tea
Ya Yeon has rediscovered the temples famous ddokcha an aged red tea in cake form once made during the Goryeo Dynasty.

Ya Yeon's Ddokcha
Koreans and Japanese have long known about Korean tea but Korean tea is little known in the Western world.  Few books on tea contain any information on Korean tea*.  However, knowledgeable tea connoisseurs have reported that handpicked and processed Korean green teas are among the best green teas in the world.  It is said of Korean green tea that it has both the taste of Luan tea and the healing-powers of Mengshan tea.
At the same time, knowledgeable tea ware connoisseurs have reported that hand formed Korean tea bowls are historically the finest tea bowls in the world.  Even today, many tea ware connoisseurs from around the world, but principally from Japan, travel to Korea to find outstanding tea bowls.  They have been known to pay enormous prices for new Korean tea bowls and present prestigious awards to Korean tea ware potters.  Most books that include information on tea bowls include long descriptions of selected Korean examples.  The famous book An Unknown Craftsman: a Japanese Insight Into Beauty by Japan’s famous aesthetician Soetsu Yanagi includes an entire chapter on one very humble Korean teabowl. 

The 'Kizaemon' Tea Bowl
The discrepancy between the appreciation of Korean tea and Korean tea ware is enormous.  We hope this tour will begin to pave the way toward a greater appreciation for Korean tea so that one day the two worlds of Korean tea, tea ware and tea, will both be greatly appreciated.

On my first trip to Korea, now more than thirty years ago, a friend took me to visit a potter.  The potter’s work was very Korean, made of porcelain and at first glance simple, humble and plain - quiet in its subtle beauty.  As we sat, the potter’s daughter, dressed in a simple white hanbok, walked slowly into the room carrying a tray on which was works by her father.  Quietly she placed the tray on the low table and sat on the floor.  It was fascinating to watch her first warm the bowl and cups with hot water and then with graceful fluid movements simply prepare tea.  I had never experienced tea like that before.  The flavor was so profound, the poetic moment unforgettable.  It was not a ceremony, but it was the Korean way of tea.   
In their book The Korean Way of Tea Brother Anthony of Taize and Hong Kyeong-Hee write:
‘Sitting in a traditional Korean house, with doors and windows open to the early morning sunshine, the taste of the first cup of tea, made with water that is far below boiling point, on a palate freshly awakened, is so intense, so indescribably fragrant, that from that day on the only question can be: ‘When shall I be able to go back and drink that tea again? 
That too is the Korean way of tea.  

Tea Ware Artist Park Jong Ill Prepares Two Types of Tea
Later we met with the potter Park Jong Il who after some exciting side trips through Jirisan tea country finally took us to his home high into the mountains near Gyeongju, the capitol of Silla at the time when tea was first introduced into Korea.  There we spent the night in the tea house Park Jong Il had made from raw clay he dig nearby and from trees hewn from the mountain.  With his simple natural tea ware, lightly glazed or just kissed by the now melted fly ash during the firing, we sat as he prepared tea.  Moments like that always awaken the spiritual side of tea. That too is the Korean way of tea.        
   It is these experiences and more that have guided us to offer you this unparalleled opportunity to experience the Korean way of tea.  
This is not a commercial tea tour highlighting the Korean movies filmed at one of Bosong’s tea plantations.  Your tour will be in-depth and will highlight both quality tea and quality tea ware.
The tour will begin in Seoul with an introduction to Korean tea presented by Brother Anthony of Taize, co-author of the book The Korean Way of Tea and one of the translators of Korean Tea Classics.  Then it will travel to the WOCEF site in Kwangju before traveling to the International Mungyeong Tea Bowl Festival where you will see the work of international and local tea ware artists.  Mungyeong has a thousand year history of producing tea ware.  Three ceramic Human Cultural Treasures live in Mungyeong among many other excellent tea ware artists.  This is one of the sites where Hideoshi’s army camped during the Imjin or “Pottery War”.  Many potters were taken from this area in that historic war.  They helped lay the foundation for Japan’s pottery today. 
Although we are beginning at the Mungyeong Teabowl Festival we usually like to avoid crowds and travel to out of the way places.  The tour becomes much quieter and spiritual as we trace both the history of Korean tea ceramics and the history of Korean tea.
Brother Anthony of Taize and Hong Kyeong-Hee authors of The Korean Way of Tea and translators of Korean Tea Classics are helping to plan and will participate in the tea portion of this tour.  As mentioned, at the beginning, they will introduce the tour.  They will join us when we enter the tea area of Jirisan and travel with us through Gangjin.  These mountains are famous as the areas that produce the “best teas in Korea”.  It is in Jirisan where tea was first planted in Korea.  The Goryeo Dynasty - that made Gangjin famous was the height of Korean tea and home of the great tea-master Cho Ui.  After touring important areas of Jisan Tea, Br. Anthony and Mr. Hong will take us to Hwaeom-sa  a very famous tea temple.  There you will experience temple life or you may choose to rest at a nearby hotel.  The following morning, Br. Anthony, Mr. Hong and the temple monks will guide you through the experience of picking and processing your own Korean green tea. 
The tea portion of the tour will allow you to witness several tea plantations, including Jirisan areas and Bosong and we will travel to Gangjin famous for celadon made during the Goryeo Dynasty.  Gangjin is an historic stop for Korean tea connoisseurs.         
We, with the help of Chung Yang-mo, foremost authority on Korean ceramics, are planning the tea ware portion of the tour.  We have more than 40 years of Korean ceramic research experience and have selected some of Korea’s more interesting ceramic artists.  They include a potter considered by some Japanese and Korean authorities to produce the finest tea bowls in Asia.  You will visit Intangible Cultural Assets of various ceramic styles and Park Jong Il, the humble potter whose raw clay home sits high in the mountains near Gyeongju as well as many others.      
We simply want to introduce you to both Korean ceramics and the Korean way of tea.  Our hope is that on this tour, with guests including tea connoisseurs, tea ware artists and others, you experience at least one moment when you will not only witness the Korean way of tea but will feel it deeply. 
“To read is to know, to travel is to understand.”
We hope that you will be open to the great experiences that await you on this tour.
Please contact us at: Morning Crane Tea to register and be informed about this great adventure as it develops. Please go to our introduction post for information on registration.