Usually I'm more of a 시장 (open air market) kinda guy. Except when it comes to April and May. April showers and the cherry blossom flowers mean its time for green tea: the good stuff is coming next month. I was just in the Shinsegae Department store and my wife noticed the sign: "2011 우전녹차 예약 판매" panmae is waiting list. Now is the time you can register to get your first season/Ujeon green tea.
Essentially as many guides will tell you, Ujeon tea is the tea that is made from the first young green tea buds and leaves picked around 'Gokwoo' or April 20th. The leaves are picked, rubbed, roasted and packed.
That's all fine and dandy you might say. But what's the point you may ask. Isn't green tea green tea?
The difference is in the taste:
If you've ever had green tea you'll find it is a bit bitter especially from the teabags. Sometimes it's mixed with buckwheat (메밀). Usually they use lower quality, older season green tea for that. Bitter teas do have their place.
The difference is like this: regular green tea is like a mint or peppermint in that it has a sharpness to it, it has a bit of a bite. Well Ujeon green tea has no bitter bite to it. Its closer to peppermint than mint in taste. Just picture peppermint without the sharpness yet still retaining that mild cooling effect. That's Ujeon green tea. Usually you steep the tea for only 30 seconds or so. It comes out clear but has that awesome cooling effect. A great tea for summer. I'm looking forward to trying it out as an iced tea.
It _is_ expensive Shinsagae has it for 80,000 won for 80grams, but overall it is worth it: This tea stays strong even after several steepings.
Fine about the taste but why the waiting list?
That is what I'm about to find out.
On his website Brother Anthony of Taize says Ujeon tea loses some of its quality by around Christmas time or after 8 months. Something I plan to put to the test once I get my hands on the 2011 Ujeon NokCha available from next month.
Unable to wait until then, today I rummaged around our tea cupboard and dug up an old 2009 Ujeon green tea. We still have some left! (We save it for special occasions). The best before date says it's still good up until April 2011 (uh ohhhh) and it is. We paid 100,000 won for all 80grams of it.
Suffice to say, you may forgo the waiting list and buy last years Ujeon NokCha instead as for certain it has no bitterness. Ujeon NokCha is a dog that won't bite.