Green tea was originally produced in ancient China and can be dated back to 2737 BC. Although its existence was found by mistake, this popular beverage became ingrained in Chinese culture and quickly made its way across the globe.
Although there are two different, yet popular ideas on how green tea spread into Korea, the beverage has been produced there for the last 1200 years. With this cultural exchange from China and its rise in popularity in Korea, many varieties have resulted.
Daejak tea, one green tea grade in Korea, is known for its distinct looks and specific harvest season. When translated, its name means “big sparrow.”
The Origins of Korean Green Tea
There are two different ideas on how this caffeinated beverage made its way to Korea. This is mainly because the event happened centuries ago.
According to some, it was introduced by a Buddhist monk who had been visiting China. It is said he brought back seeds and planted them around the Ssanggyesa Temple in Hadong, which is located in the South Korean providence of Gyeongsangnam-do.
Others believe Queen Heo Hwang-ok, who was a princess of the Kingdom of Ayodhya in India, brought tea with her when she married King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya of Korea. The plant she is said to have brought with her is thought to have been planted on the mountain of Baegwolsan.
Harvesting & Tea Grade
Grown in South Korea, this grade of tea leaves is gathered during the final harvest of the season. This takes place around the middle to end of June. Since this harvest is later, daejak tea leaves are more mature and are the largest picked during the harvest. Stems are also sometimes left on the leaves.
Between the larger leaves and later harvest time, daejak tea leaves are considered to be the lowest of four tea grades in Korea. Daejak tea is often found in pre-packaged tea bags and is popular with people who are inexperienced or new to drinking green tea. Loose-leaf daejak tea is also available.
Processing, Appearance, & Taste
After these tea leaves have been harvested, they are placed in an iron pot for heating. This stops the oxidation process, keeping the leaves from turning black and helping them to achieve the distinct green tea flavor. Daejak tea leaves, like many green teas, are rolled by hand and left to dry outside in the shade.
Once dried, daejak tea leaves are dark green, course, and slightly curled, and these leaves produce a tea that is pale greenish-yellow color. As for taste, it is known to be harsher compared to the other Korean tea grades. Many claim daejak tea leaves make a strong vegetal or grassy tea with a hint of roasted nuts.
The large daejak tea leaves, gathered during the latest harvest season of the year, are considered to be the lowest grade of tea leaves produced in Korea. The other three grades harvested include:
- Ujeon- the highest quality and picked during the first harvest
- Sejak- the second highest quality and picked during the second harvest
- Jungjak- the second lowest quality and picked during the third harvest
Brewing This Grade of Tea
Whether brewing daejak leaves from a pyramid-shaped sachet or loose, the process is simple and easy to do. Even the most novice tea drinkers can brew a cup of tea in just a few steps.
- Boil water in a kettle or pot (spring water is recommended).
- Once the water reaches a rolling boil, fill your mug with 10-12 oz of hot water. Let it set for a few minutes, allowing the mug to pre-heat and for the water to cool to approximately 176°F, which is the ideal temperature for this grade of green tea. (If the water is too hot, the tea leaves will burn and you will be left with bitter-tasting tea.)
- After allowing the water to cool to the correct temperature, you can add either 1 teaspoon of daejak loose tea leaves to your mug or one pre-filled tea sachet.
- Steep the tea for two to three minutes. Remove the sachet, or strain out of the tea leaves, and enjoy.
Rules for Drinking Tea
Although easy to brew at home, Korean culture still practices tea ceremonies and follows certain steps for enjoying tea in a traditional, natural way. There are rules for what equipment to use when brewing the beverage and guidelines for how the teacup should be held while drinking. Considered an art form in Korea, drinking tea with others is regarded as a natural, calm, relaxing, and slow process that should be enjoyed.
One serving size of this Korean green tea has little nutritional value. This tea contains zero calories, carbs, proteins, and fats. Like other green tea variations, this grade of Korean tea is naturally caffeinated.
Daejak Grade Green Tea
Korea has been harvesting tea leaves and producing different tea grades for centuries. Although the history behind how this tea made its way into Korea is not quite known, there are different speculations on whether Buddhist monks or royalty were responsible for the cultural exchange.
Harvested during the last days of June, daejak leaves are larger than other grades and often include stems and branches. Being gathered during the final days of harvest, not as much care is taken as with earlier harvests, which are hand-picked; daejak leaves are often gathered by machines that are also pruning the trees for the next harvests the following spring.
These mature, dark green, and slightly curled leaves produce a brew that is pale in color and harsher in taste when compared to other grades of Korean green tea. The caffeinated beverage is often described as having a grassy taste mixed with subtle hints of roasted nuts. Available in both sachets and loose, tea is heavily engrained into Korean culture and daejak tea is just one small piece of the puzzle.