Friday, January 16, 2015

A Visit With Park Jeom Ja: Artisan Tea Producer and Tea Master

Have you seen Tea Tour Korea 2015?

Over the years of traveling through Korea by ourselves or with tours, we have met and become friends with many artisan tea producers and artists.  Sometimes they truly surprise us by planning adventures for us that we could not have planned on our own.  It is these types of experiences that make our tours personal and unique.  
Tea Tour Korea 2014 was no exception and it brought a number of interesting and often surprising events planned within the tour by friends.  Park Jeom Ja, an artisan tea producer and tea master living in Gangjin is one of those friends and each time we visit her we are in for a surprise.
In 2011 she met us at an all female temple where we shares tea served by the Abbot.
In 2013 she invited us to a serene setting and carefully explained her green tea, hwangcha and ttokcha. 
This year I simply asked her to allow us to us taste her teas.  This is what happened.
 Park Jeom Ja

We had a very long day with ceramic workshops and were delayed in arriving to meet Park Jeom Ja thinking of course we were meeting only her.  But no; we had no idea that she had invited the entire Chollanamdo Myung Won Cultural Foundation from as far away as Gwangju to the East and Mokpo to the West spanning the entire Provence to meet us.  
Who knew that she was the current president of this group famous for promoting the Korean tea ceremony? 
We met in the mist of the O’Sulloc Tea fields near beautiful Mount Wolchulsan in Gangjin.  The bushes are covered, preparing the next pick for powdered tea.  This powdered tea will not be used for matcha but rather for cosmetics and other green tea products produced by O’Sulloc’s parent company AmorePacific. 

 The Chollanamdo Mung Won Cultural Foundation Greets Us
Next, we drove to the countryside near Gangjin, where we attended briefly a small local and quiet tea event with a chef who spoke excellent English and had worked as a chef in France as well as other countries.  

They hosts explained that they had planned a much larger event but plans were altered after the ferry tragedy that took place very near to where we were.  (As a quick and ironic side note of that tragedy, the captain of that ferry was found hiding on a Boseong tea plantation trying to avoid prosecution - but not a plantation that we visited.) 

On leaving the tea event, we passed a very interesting outhouse.

Then we walked 100 yards or so to a courtyard where a group was making ttokcha by hand.  It was a true community affair and quite an experience.

Mary and I and our guide MiNa had made ttokcha ourselves on a previous tea tour so it was great to see it being made by the community in this way. 

Finally, we were invited to a local gallery that was exhibiting some pretty significant Chollanamdo teaware.  

Two of our guests bought full sets.  The quality was so high I found myself wondering if a 9 day Chollanamdo only tea experience could gather enough quests.  Certainly it would be an exciting adventure and there are plenty of exceptional tea, famous tea temples with wild tea, tea history, tea artisans and teaware artists to make such a tour a memorable one - even without visiting O’Sulloc.
One of the highlights of the exhibit was the serving of tea by a couple of . . . salt enthusiasts.  Those who were on the tour will understand this statement and might embellish that thought in the comments below.  All in all these combined experiences, provided by the artisan tea producer and tea master Park Jeom Ja, were indeed memorable and I can’t thank her enough.  Unfortunately, she provided so many other memorable tea experiences that the one experience I had hoped for - having the group taste her tea - never happened.

Will we taste her delicious teas on Tea Tour 2015? 
It is not too late to join us.  Contact us now.


  1. oh Arthur, what lovely remarks and photos for a very unique afternoon and evening. It was just as you describe....but even more, well, amazing, if you also tell readers this is just what happened after about 4pm! The previous part of the day had been very full as well. Great trip. packed with adventures and fun.

  2. Thanks for commenting Cynthia. Nothing I say or do means as much as comments posted by those of you who were there. These tours are not really 'mine' as much as they belong to the people we visit who over the years have come to be our friends.