|Piling on the tea train|
It's difficult to say that one one part of the tea making process is any more or less important than any other but it certainly all starts with the harvest. Obviously, you can't make good tea without good leaves.
This late in the short tea-picking season is "Jung Jak" (Korean name of the third flush, but not literally "third flush"), so we pick just the bud with one leaf. The bud holds the sweetness and the leaf adds the bitter taste, the two basic characteristics of nearly every tea. The second leaf would over power the delicate balance and the taste would not taste good.
The harvest is the more grueling part of the process, hunched over the hot sun, scouring the bushes for tender buds. I keep wanting to take a break, but I know the more I pick the more tea I'll have to bring home. I do take a moment to enjoy a few deep breaths of the fresh mountain air now and then and take in the view of Jiri Mountain from this 700 meter foothill. I especially enjoy rustling the leaves in the bag and sticking my nose in for a deep whiff. Like sugar-snap pea pods mixed with a touch of citronella.
The bag fills slowly with the small buds and leaves. My arms have begun to burn in the hot sun and are quite uncomfortable, so I move to a patch of bushes beneath the shade of a large persimmon tree, a few rows down the slope. The others stayed above, near the top, so there are many decent buds here to pluck. Not long after, Prof Ahn calls out that we've done enough and we take turns piling onto the little carts to bring us back to the workshop to start the roasting process.
|A perfect bud and leaf for "Jung Jak"|
|Riding up the slope|
|Through the bushes|
|At the top|