Want a little luxury in your drink choices? Try something different. For centuries, Asia has been praising the wonders of high quality green tea and the benefits of traditional tea ceremonies.
While China and Japan get a lot of the credit, South Korea has its own rituals. There are four varieties of Korean green tea, including Daejak, Jungjak, Sejak, and Ujeon. Ujeon is considered the highest quality green tea used in traditional Korean ceremonies.
Finding a mindfulness practice that works well for you can be difficult. A short tea ritual to start your morning or create a pause in the afternoon can be the perfect way to incorporate a moment of quiet in your day. Consider taking a note from Asian culture, and practice a ritual with a high quality green tea like Ujeon.
What is Ujeon Tea?
Ujeon means “pre-rain” and is also known as Cheonmul-cha or “first flush tea.” It is made with the young tender leaves and buds of the tea plant that are picked before the heavy spring rains in South Korea, known as Gogu. It is considered a green tea.
Korean Ujeon is equivalent to Chinese Mingqian and Japanese Shincha in terms of quality. It is the highest grade of Korean green tea.
Korean green teas may not be as popular as Chinese or Japanese green teas, but they have quality in their own right. Korean green tea is prepared by taking the leaves and heating them in an iron pot within a few hours of being picked. They are then hand-rolled and dried outside under shade.
Because of the technique necessary to create Ujeon tea, only small batches are made each year and it can be quite expensive.
What Does Ujeon Tea Taste Like?
Ujeon tea is delicate, with a subtle floral flavor, with a taste many consider reminiscent of the early spring days when it is picked. When prepared correctly, Ujeon’s flavor can feel bright and reinvigorating with slightly earthy notes.
Many of your standard supermarket green teas may taste bitter but higher quality teas like Ujeon offer a delicious and soft taste with little to no bitterness.
Tea flavor is affected by growing methods, harvesting and fermenting techniques, as well as the age of the leaves. Standard supermarket tea tends to be older and made up of the powdered remnants of higher grade teas, rather than the whole leaf like Ujeon.
How Do You Brew Ujeon Tea?
Brewing green tea requires cooler water than black or herbal tea, especially when it is high quality tea. Go for a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees Centigrade or 122 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This helps activate the amino acids that give green tea its refreshing taste.
You only need about 2 grams of tea per person, and the steaming time is about 2 minutes. Longer brew times or hotter temperatures can contribute to a more bitter flavor. When in doubt, go towards the lower end of the temperature scale and brew times.
Dado, The Korean Tea Ceremony
Ujeon is used commonly in the traditional Korean tea ceremony, Dado. Dado literally means “the way of the tea” and was developed as a form of meditation to cleanse one’s mind for the day.
The ceremony begins with “Tooda,” which is the act of placing the tea into a teapot and pouring water over it. The placement of the tea and whether the water is poured before or after placement is up for debate.
Some who practice this ceremony change the placement depending on the season. A common practice for water pouring is to fill the pot half way, add the tea, then pour in the remaining water.
Tea is poured a little bit at a time into each cup in order to distribute the flavor evenly. The strongest flavor sits at the bottom of the pot. All the water must be used, or else it will become bitter.
When drinking your cup of green tea, start by grounding yourself in the moment. Take note of the color and scent before you taste it. When you drink the tea, use both hands to hold the cup. As the tea hits your tongue and makes its way down your throat, savor the flavor until there is no lingering taste in your mouth.
You can steep high quality leaves like Ujeon up to five times for subsequent cups of tea. After the first brewing, the water can be a little hotter. The leaves have softened and the tea only needs a moment to brew.
Afterwards, you can use the tea leaves yet again. While they aren’t strong enough for another cup of tea, they still have plenty of nutrients stored in them. Use them for cooking, bathing, or a hair rinse.
Tea without any additional sweeteners are virtually calorie free. Some apps may log them as 2 calories with less than a gram of carbohydrates.
High quality green teas like Ujeon contain close to 50mg of caffeine. This is less than a cup of coffee, but still enough to give you a quick boost. Most green teas contain chemical compounds that allow for a slow release of caffeine throughout the day, rather than a quick burst of energy like coffee provides.
Green tea is a known anti-inflammatory and offers a nice dose of antioxidants to help you be your best. Many people prefer to drink it in the early afternoon as a subtle caffeine boost for their day without the jitters that may come with a second cup of coffee.
We all could use a little bit more mindfulness in our lives, and green tea has been a way to do that for centuries. With its lower caffeine dose and added health benefits, green tea like Ujeon offers the perfect afternoon delight to keep you going throughout the day. Take a moment out of your day to savor a cup of high quality Ujeon tea.
Feature Image: 장미의 뜰, CC BY 2.0 KR https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/kr/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons