Daehan Dawon Green Tea Garden
Imagine a hill, rippling with rows and rows of bright green tea bushes. This is the Daehan Dawon Green Tea Garden.
On our first day of the road trip with Chang we drove to this plantation, in Jeollanam Province in SW Korea near the town of Boseong. Open daily 9am-6pm.
In the Boseong area there are many smaller tea plantations, but this is the largest and has featured in many Korean movies. Supposedly it’s ranked as one of Korea’s top tourist attractions, for Koreans and international visitors. We discovered it is a popular spot with Korean tourists year-round and certainly is in a stunning setting.
After parking, we approached along the lovely cedar tree path, almost like a tunnel, next to a small stream. Ahead is a steep hill covered in cultivated tea bushes that curve in rows following the contour of the hill. It’s amazing to see so many bushes in one place, and growing on such a steep slope. It was lovely to just wander around on the paths, trying for that elusive “great photo”. It was pretty crowded, but the area is large enough to largely absorb the crowds.
It’s a beautiful sight, with the rows of tea bushes at high elevation, surrounded by forests. Visually it’s a great spectacle, but actually not that educational, as there were very few information boards. The focus seemed to be more on eating and drinking with a tea theme. We thought they could do better in explaining how they process tea, what the differences are between green tea and black tea, a history of tea in Korea, for example.
What we did learn was about 4 grades of tea, all organically grown and produced, based on
seasons. In Korea tea leaves are collected 3 or 4 times a year, and taste and quality will depend on the time of picking. Woojeon Tea is made from the first young leaves picked after winter. It’s a premium tea produced in very limited quantities. Sejak is the most popular green tea, made from leaves picked during the first part of May before the leaf is fully matured. Joongjak, made from leaves ripened a bit more and picked by end of May, has a fuller taste. Ipha is made from fully ripened leaves picked in June and July.
A small pamphlet we got with our tickets does have some information. In very early days tea was cultivated in/by Buddhist temples, but in the Jeoseon Dynasty more widespread cultivation began in this area, as climate and soil were ideally suited.
This is Korea’s largest tea garden, started in 1939 but devastated during the Korean War. In 1957 the garden and surrounding woods were take over privately and built up again. Over time, millions of tea trees and other decorative trees (such as cedar, cypress, juniper, ginkgo, maple, bamboo, cherry, magnolia) were planted, creating a natural ecology area that gives shelter to many kinds of animals birds and insects.
It was also interesting for us when we tried to put this garden into context; it’s producing green tea, which is so famous and popular in many East Asian countries. We grew up in British colonial culture in which black tea is popular. I’ve tried green tea before in China and at home, as many of our students bring a gift of green tea. And of course, green tea icecream has become very popular in recent years—I think it came mainly out of Japan.
But, I’ve not seen so many other products using green tea as we see here. Noodles, rice, candy; face creams and face packs, green tea bath packs, body lotions, sun block; medicinal purposes, such as helping food poisoning and motion sickness etc. All on sale in the shops here. Green tea has the connotation and reputation of being healthy, so supposedly any of these products would be more healthy for you than one without green tea. The shops were all doing brisk business, and I’m sure any of these items would make great gifts or souvenirs.
Lunch with a view!
We had lunch here at the DaWon ShimTe Cafetaria, which was delicious and with a tremendous view across to the tea slopes. I had cold green tea noodles, and Rod and Chang had green rice bibimbap. You can also buy green tea shakes and green tea yoghurt. We opted for a leisurely green tea icecream at a small shop, before leaving.
Definitely worth a visit.