Madeleine, an international business woman who enjoys both tea and tea ware, was one of our guests on Tea Tour Korea 2011. She sent us a wonderful email and has granted permission to share it with you as a post. The illustrations and footnotes are ours.
Dear Arthur and Mary,
I am finally home after some rushing about here in the region, and I am finally setting down to write you both a much-deserved note of thanks.
I have "The Book of Korean Tea", "The Way of Korean Tea", "Korean Tea Classics", all proudly displayed on my table and lately my friends have been looking through them and simply saying "wow".
That is the best way to describe the trip - an eye opening experience into a world so close to me physically, but where thanks to you both, the veil of mystery has been lifted and one enchantment after another revealed.
From the moment we got on our magical mystery tour bus and walked through the Spring air and historic gates of the fort at the Mungyeong Tea Bowl festival, to the rushing waterfalls1
Mountain Stream near Hwaeomsa
and temple bells in the Jiri Mountains, the peace of Hwaeomsa temple and drumbeats echoing through the valleys2,
3:30 AM Drumming Hwaeomsa
the tea fields in Hwagae Valley and rushing river by the mountain side, 3
Wild Tea in Hwaegae Valley
the soft contours of the sea and mountains as we neared Gangjin, the elegant tea ceremony at the Myung Won Cultural Foundation, the detailed archeology museums that opened up centuries of Korean culture - the trip was a multi-layered exploration of archeology, culture, religion, geography, history all brought together through a tea leaf steeped into a beautiful bowl of magnificent simplicity and energy.4
Each day was filled with these experiences brought to life through individual contact and exchange with master ceramic experts who all offered us tea in stunning natural settings.5
The Mungyeong Artist Oh Sung Teak serves us tea
I will not forget the enchanted gardens, mountain top vistas sitting on warmed floors, walks though camellia forests
Red camellias bloom at the tea temple Baekryunsa near Gangjin
and tea served by Buddhist monks6 and gracious nuns.
Tea monk Duk Jae, at Gu Chung Am, Hwaeomsa 2&6
Most of all, the open, warm and generous hospitality of lunch and dinner where small dish after dish flourished bringing regional delights and tastes amid friendship and laughter with our kind and laughing hosts.7
A Korean Lunch
The generosity and lack of artifice of highly accomplished ceramic and tea masters is a memory that I will carry for a long time to come - in each and every encounter, we were welcomed to handle treasures, patiently provided with answers to endless numbers of questions about tea preparation, hosted to wonderful and spontaneous tea and then always, provided with a beautiful gift. Whether this was green tea, blossom tea from a tea master or an individual teacup from a ceramic master's studio, each item is treasured and savored with delight.
It is a testimony to your generosity and friendship with each master that we were received with such kindness.
Brother Anthony - An Sonjae
My special thanks also to Brother Anthony,8 who opened the gates of the temple to us and bid us farewell in Seoul over lotus blossom tea served in a large jet black bowl with floating pristine lotus flower.9
Lotus Blossom Tea at the tea shop Tea Friend
And finally, my sincere thanks to my travel companions, delightful multicultural group of tea experts consisting of Classic scholars, philosopher/attorney, intrepid world explorer and organic gardener, tea host with quirky sense of humor, attorney turned potter and video expert 10
Tea Tour Korea 2011 group with Min Young Ki
Exquisite, gracious, warm, as well as filled with laughter. These words and sound sum up the trip.
With very best regards and looking forward to keeping in touch on a regular basis,
1. These rushing waterfalls are at Hwaeomsa. We will post on the Mungyeong Tea Bowl Festival later.
2. Tea Tour Korea 2011 stayed at Hwaeomsa where we picked wild 'bamboo dew' tea under the guidance of the monk Duk Jae (5) who heads the Gu Chung Am at Hwaeomsa. While there each morning we woke to witness the drum beating before early morning chanting at the temple.
3. If you look closely you will see hundreds of wild tea bushes scattered across this steep hillside and going into the bamboo forest above.
4. I illustrated Simple tea with a bowl made by the international ceramic artist Min Young Ki.
5. The tea ware artist Oh Sung Teak serves us tea at the Mungyeng Teabowl Festival. The setting of the festival is one of the most beautiful settings in Korea.
6. The tea monk Duk Jae serves us wonderful hwangcha - yellow tea at his hermitage Gu Chung Am above Hwaeomsa. We picked and processed 'bamboo dew tea' at Gu Chung Am.
7. The dishes for this restaurant were designed by the international artist Jeon Seong-Keun best known for his incredible porcelain carving
8. Here Brother Anthony sits by the mountain stream near Hwaeomsa. I believe it is one of his favorite spots in the world, It is certainly one of ours. The first photo is taken from the same area.
9. Tea Friend is a wonderful small tea shop near but not in Insadong. The owner, Bo Hyun Sim, has many types of tea including a stunning variety of 'herbal' teas.
10. The Tea Tour Korea 2011 group is seen here with the tea bowl artist Min Young Ki, his wife and son Min Bum Sik who is also a fine tea ware artist.
11. We are accepting registration for Tea Tour Korea 2012. There will be no Tea Tour 2013 but possibly another in 2014. We are looking for 6-10 participants total and have 4 or 6 interested currently. If you have an interest in joining us on Tea Tour Korea 2012 it is obviously not too early to register. Contact us through this blog link.