Hwaeom-sa : Tea Making 2011
About 150 meters up the path behind
Hwaŏmsa temple in Kurye-gu is
a small hermitage, Kuch’ŭng-am / Gucheung-am. Its buildings are old and
unspoiled. It is surrounded by wild tea bushes and its one resident
monk, the Ven. Tŏkje, has developed it in recent years as a center for
tea-making. Visitors are welcomed at weekends in May for a tea-making
The hermitage is very ancient, the
present buildings are perhaps 300 years old but the ruined stone pagoda
beside it is much older.
The Venerable Ilta, who had reached a
very high state of enlightenment, used to spend the summer in
Gucheung-am hermitage. Unlike Ssanggye-sa, there were no disputes with
married monks at Hwaeom-sa. There might be occasional visitors, but it
was very quiet and perfect for meditation. Gucheung-am thus served as a
meditation room, and although it lay only a few steps directly behind
the great hall of the main temple, it was silent as though it was
somewhere deep in the mountain, unlike the main temple.
The halls and living quarters
Gucheung-am, like the great hall of the main temple, were some four
hundred years old. They were very unlike the humble rooms monks usually
lived in, rather they seemed fit to be visited and inhabited by the
great Mountain Spirit.
In addition, there was the
streams flowing close by, while the quince trees beside the steps to
the Hall blossomed. These were wild quince trees, that had long
flourished in Jiri-san. When they had grown tall and old, they were cut
and used as timber, with several gnarled trunks serving at Gucheung-am
as pillars supporting the roofs.
(From a text written by Jeong
Gucheung-am is a peaceful hermitage
easily reached as you walk up through the bamboo grove behind Hwaeom-sa
to the sound of the nearby stream. In times past people used to say:
“It lies among bamboos with a long stream running musically beside it.
Such a beautiful spot!”
Gucheung-am has served as a
meditation hall, a teaching hall, as home to a community, a place for
ascetic practice. Its historic buildings are simple and natural. The
hall, containing statues of a thousand Buddhas, is small and beautiful,
with a solemn atmosphere.
Chung'no (Bamboo-dew) wild tea.
tea leaves in the groves, gathering the buds,
brewing them in a jade bowl with
water from the Yangtze,
as night ends ZhuangZi awakes amazed
from his dream of a butterfly,
confusion banished, Zen Master
Zhaozhou knows this taste.
This poem was written by the
Venerable Jihwan, a former head monk of Hwaeom-sa.
From ancient times Buddhists have
seen in tea not only a refreshing drink but also a potion that purifies
the minds of monks in their meditation and practice. In 1697, soon
after Hwaeom-sa had been rebuilt, we find one of its monks writing, “We
never cease offering tea to the Buddha,” from which we can guess how
precious tea was to the monks of those times.
Today we find wild tea growing
plentifully all the way up the hillsides behind Hwaeom-sa, from the
entrance until far beyond Gucheung-am. Previously it was only monks who
drank this wild tea, but nowadays it is also available to visitors to
the tea room in Gucheung-am.
The bamboo-dew tea growing around
Hwaeom-sa and Gucheung-am has a long history but it has never been
commercialized or produced industrially, it is simply made for those
living and practicing in the temple.
The Story of Kuch’ŭng-am’s Wild
The tea-field around Kuchŭng-am
hermitage is completely natural. From the very beginning it has grown
as now seen, in the shade of mountainside trees, without any human
interference. We call it ‘bamboo-dew tea’ because it grows among the
Ordinary tea-fields clear away the
trees in order to maximize the yield
But the tea at Kuch’ŭng-am is very
different. The quantity harvested is small, while the leaves are soft
and large. Our aim is to take purely natural leaves and produce purely
Historically speaking, the tea
growing wild at Ku ch’ŭng-am may well derive from the first tea planted
in Korea, in the valleys around Hwaŏm-sa, as is suggested by the
representation in the three-storied Four-Lion Pagoda (National Treasure
No. 35) above the temple, of the Venerable Master Yŏn’gi, the founder
in 543-4 of Yŏngok-sa, Hwaŏm-sa, offering tea to his mother.
Thus the tea of Kuch’ŭng-am is
carefully made using Chiri-san tea leaves with their long centuries of
history, following the strict methods inherited from the monks of long
nb. There is a record that in the 8th
century the ambassador Taeryŏm brought back tea seeds from Tang China
which the king order to be planted in Chiri-san but tea was growing at
Hwaŏm-sa before that.
Experience Picking Tea
Once tender leaves begin to grow in
April or May, the topmost bud together with the two topmost fresh
leaves must be plucked gently without wounding the bush, so that
healthy leaves will grow there again the following year. The plucking
must be done by hand, one bud at a time.
the leaves in a very hot cauldron
The Korean word for parching fresh
tea leaves in a cauldron is “tŏkkŭm.” In this process, the most
important thing is that the leaves must not scorch or burn, but they
must be thoroughly parched. If the temperature is too low, the cells
are not sufficiently impacted, then the leaves oxidize and turn red.
The initial parching lasts some 7-8
minutes in a cauldron heated to 300-350 degrees.
We place the leaves we have picked
into a cauldron heated to the right level and begin the“tŏkkŭm.” The
leaves must be stirred constantly to keep them from burning. After
this, the leaves are rubbed on a straw mat or in a wicker basket in
order to squeeze out the moisture.
If the leaves are thoroughly rubbed,
the tea will be clear when brewed; if they are not rubbed enough, the
brew will be murky.
After “tŏkkŭm” and rubbing comes the
final drying process.
Yu’nyŏm (care) in rubbing the leaves
The process of rubbing the initially
parched leaves is known as Yu’nyŏm (care). The moisture within every
portion of the leaves must be drawn out and the cells thoroughly
crushed in order to obtain a good brew. Adequate pressure and time are
needed in this process, which usually takes 10-15 minutes. After
rubbing, the leaves must be teased apart to avoid clumping. They are
then returned to a rather cooler caudron briefly, and the process of
rubbing is then repeated, nine times. The leaves must be sufficiently
well rubbed, bruised and rolled if they are to release their full
flavor. The result of this is Kuch’ŭng-am’s famous green tea.
Thoughts on Making Wild Tea by the
I want to make tea that is full of
I want to make tea using purely
natural leaves that have grown in a natural environment, watered by the
surrounding trees, fertilized by their falling leaves and not by people
trying to increase the amount of tea they yield.
Nowadays you sometimes hear people
demanding convenience in making tea; we in Kuch’ŭng-am want to make
truly natural tea using people’s hands rather than any kind of
convenience. Hwaŏm-sa’s history of tea-making goes back centuries,
whereas I have only been making tea for a few years. Therefore I want
to continue making pure, natural tea for a long time yet.
I hope to make tea in such a way that
the people involved experience nature and find peace of heart.
Timetable of Tea-Making
* Saturday (Green tea)
03:30 - 04:00 Dawn chanting
06:00 - 06:30 Morning meal
07:00 - 11:00 Tea picking
Picking tea buds among the bamboos as
11:30 - 12:00 Midday meal
12:30 - 13:30 Sorting the leaves
13:30 - 17:00 Tea making
17:30 - 18:00 Evening meal, rest
18:40 - 19:10 Evening chanting
19:30 - 20:30 Sharing tea and talk
with the monk in charge
20:30 - 21:00 Wash-up, bedtime
*Sunday (Making paryo (oxidized) tea)
03:30 - 04:00 Dawn chanting
06:00 - 06:30 Morning meal
07:00 - 09:00 Hermitage pilgrimage
In the hope that time spent walking
up the mountain to visit the Yŏngi-am and Kŭmjŏng-am hermitages will
give you new insight
09:30 - 11:00 Making parhyo tea
11:30 - 12:00 Midday meal, departure
* Weather etc may cause changes
Dates for Tea-Making
1. May 6 – May 8
2. May 13 – May 15
3. May 20 – May 22
4. May 27 – May 29
5. June 3 – June 5
6. June 10 – June 12
* Weather etc may cause changes
Important Rules when Making Tea
Tea readily absorbs the smell of
other substances, so:
1. No strongly perfumed cosmetics
2. No clothes washed in perfumed
3. No perfume
4. No fingernail varnish
5. No strongly perfumed shampoo /
6. No bracelets, rings or wristwatches
(risk of burns while working over
7. Alcohol, cigarettes and gum are
1. You should wear a light t-shirt
with long sleeves (to avoid burns) and bring warm clothing for cool