2017 Maewoldang Hongcha

// Published May 23, 2018 by mgualt

On my recent trip to Jeonju, South Korea, I was fortunate to visit Maewoldang tea on a rainy day in the countryside.  This meant that Mr Oh Dong-Seop (@sin.mog) and his team were not as busy as usual and could show me around and answer my annoying questions.  They were extremely generous with their time and I cannot thank them enough.

At Maewoldang, they make a green tea, a yellow tea, a red (a black tea in the usual meaning) tea and, most interestingly for me, a blue tea, whose production is very similar to puerh tea (a review of this tea is coming soon). Everything here is done entirely by hand by a small team of workers with an infectious passion for their craft.

Mr. Oh gave me a sample of his most recent production of red tea, and it is easily one of the most remarkable teas I’ve had.

Even before brewing, the material looks quite remarkable, intact, usually three leaves including the stem, and twisted/rolled to be quite spindly. It has a fresh sweet raisiny aroma. The varietal is apparently an old local varietal. Initially the taste has a kind of sweet citrus acidity and juiciness, maybe citrus candy but not quite so forwardly sweet. Very thick with a complex citrus honey, zest, and then a mouth-coating sweet and very pleasant long aftertaste. At the same time extremely soft and gentle and also concentrated and with clear flavours. No astringency or bitterness. It is not so much floral as it is fresh fruit sweetness mixed with honey. The taste profile is slightly comparable to other Korean Hwangcha I’ve tried but really this has an intensity and depth (and longevity) which outclasses any I’ve tried so far.

The liquor is oily thick and continues to produce the same intense complex sweetness for many steeps, up to 8 steeps easily. The material is sturdy, the liquor clear, and the whole profile is extremely clean and articulated.  The energy I get from this tea is uplifting and not jittery or heady, and it simply cannot avoid improving the mood, if only because of its pleasurable taste and aroma.  It is quite an experience. Thank you again to Mr. Oh for his insights and generosity.

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