Friday, May 10, 2013
Gu Jung Gu Po Cha • 구중구포차
Gu Jung Gu Po Pu Cha • 구중구포차
When I mentioned to Mr Ahn (my tea mentor) that I actually preferred Korean Jiri Mountain green tea to Chinese tea, he refused to accept my statement (he may be the only teashop owner in Korea who would disagree with me!). He told me good Korean green tea is only a 'C' compared to an 'A+' Chinese green tea. He did how ever add that Korean 'Gu Jung Gu Po' (구중구포, Nine Roasts Nine Dries) does match an 'A' Chinese green.
This is one of the rarest and most expensive Korean green tea. As far as I know, there a couple of monks who produce this tea, mostly for personal use, family an friends, I'm not sure what else, if anyone, may be making it. Mr Ahn manages to get a small amount to sell. The fresh, spring Gu Jung Gu Po sells for $250/80g, more than I've ever been able to afford, but My Ahn is generous enough to sample it when it arrives in mid-May. (The photo above is a February product, but still $100/50g, but not the same tea we sampled this day). If you think nine roastings are excessive, they're not. They're perfect! Perhaps ten would be excessive...
The tiny, dry leaves are twisted and deep bluish-green. The smell from the freshly cut package is sweet like apricot.
Korean green tea is prepared with very cool water, especially the first pour which may be as low as 50ºC but generally around 70~80ºC. Mr Ahn fills the 'sugu' (cooling vessel, 숙우, 熟盂) with water as he heats the pot and cups from the kettle. With the sugu still holding water, he puts a couple of heaping scoops of leaves into the pot, then fills the pot with the water from the cups for the first steep, letting it sit for about 20 seconds. Since it only filled the long row of cups about half-way, he then added the water from the sugu, letting it steep for just a few seconds before filling the cups. After serving, he immediately fills the sugu again, then we drink as he waits for the water to cool. Korean tea requires a degree of patience for the best results.
The tea is very translucent with just a touch of a green hue. Korean green tea generally has light, delicate, sweet taste. Gu Jung Gu Po is deeper, fruitier, and more complex. There is an noticeable roasted flavour but still very delicate, nothing at all like a heavily roasted Chinese oolong, even after being roasted nine times.
The leaves turn a fresh, bright green the moment they are wet, typical of Korean green tea. Requiring two steeps to fill the cups for everyone, the leaves lasted just a few servings, but the yearly samples of this tea are always my favorite.
When the leaves were exhausted, he filled each of our cups with the soggy leaves and finally appreciated them in the most thorough way, by eating the tender, young tips, until there were none remaining.