Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hwaomsa Templestay and Tea

Sonja Glaeser, the organizer of Hippies Korea, trained as a tea master. Much of her training and connections have focused around the monks at the Hwaoma temple in Guyre, Jeollanamdo. Hwaomsa is a temple of the Jogye Order and has nearly as many national treasures as the famous Bukguksa Temple in Gyeongju, and people can find that information on-line. But what people don't know about Hwaomsa is that it sits in an uncultivated green tea plantation. All over the mountain and especially in the valleys behind the temple and hermitage are green tea plants, which have been cultivated there supposedly for a thousand years.

Sonja knows the monks, the cooks, the long-term volunteers there, and because of her connections, a handful of us had a templestay experience with the monks in the hermitage behind Hwaomsa, not the tourist designated templestay area for the average Joe-Blow and Hong Gil-dong. We ate with the monks in that small compound, drank lots and lots of tea with the head monks, and walked (in the rain) up a valley that was profuse with wildly growing tea trees.

The monk in charge of the tea plants and cultivation fed us various kinds of tea over the weekend, wonderful teas! But the best tea to me was the simplest. It was made from the green tea buds and steeped in hot water to make a light, slightly perfumed and smooth tasting tea. Most teas are fermented, which really bother me, but I found this tea calming and very satisfying after being in the cold rain. Who would have thought to use green tea buds as the body of the tea?

Photos by Sonja Glaeser

And of course before the rain we walked to yet another temple on the peak of the mountain above Hwaomsa. From the top the views were fantastic, particularly of the long valley we just came up. The healing green was very cathartic as was the warm sunshine. Very restful indeed, and of course we took a few moments to goof off before heading down to attend the Hwaeom Spiritual Music Ritual 2016 starting at dusk in the main courtyard of the temple.

Tea information gleaned over the weekend:

Bamboo dew tea - The tea soaks up all the ki (energy) and minerals of the earth so drinking the tea you are drinking the energy of the earth.

Tea trees in Hwaomsa have deeeeeep roots unlike the flat root of Boseong Tea Plantation, which are plants from Japan. Hwaomsa trees originated in Korea.

Tea in China, Japan and Korea is considered medicine, and the many preparations are done taking into consideration the needs of digestion.

In China the water is bad, full of calcium because of a slow flow of water and therefore a lack of cleansing, so people get calcification stones in their stomach. And so to break up the stones, they need fat which causes fatty build-up but this is why the Chinese fry so much. And to break up the fat, Chinese brew and drink tea in their must-be boiled water.

The more you ferment food or tea, the more warming it is for the body. Therefore, fermented teas are preferred in the winter and green tea in the summer. The teas that undergo slow fermentation—roasted and bruised only once and then allowed to dry slowly in the sun in wide straw baskets—are an example.

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