Tag Archives: korean tea

First Pick Korean Wild Green from Franchia

This Christmas I received a surprising present: a package of the Korean First Pick Wild Green tea that I mentioned in my earlier post about Franchia, the tea house in New York City. Definitely a great opportunity to expand my knowledge of Korean greens. Today I had my first try.

Photo Dec 31, 11 57 27 AM

According to their website:

Our Korean Wild Green Tea comes from the rocky slopes of Mt. Jilee and is 100% natural. Because it’s not cultivated, the root of our Wild Green Tea draws richer nutrients and minerals from almost 60 feet deep. The region’s colder climate (even in summer) and drastic temperature difference between day and night produces tea leaves stronger in “chi” or “energy.” Moreover, what differentiates Franchia Wild Green Tea from other green teas is our completely natural production process from growing in the wild to being harvested by hand to our unique processing method.

The site shows that the unique processing method is an immediate wok-firing, followed by hand-shaping (to bring out the oils and enzymes in the leaf), resting and drying, another wok-firing in an iron wok, more resting and drying, and finally a gentle roasting step in a steel pot. That last step is definitely unique, as when making tea in China a final roast (which tends to bring out the leaf’s aromas) is generally only applied to oolong tea. I’m not certain if these steps are common for Korean tea or just this factory, but there is definitely a notable effect.

Photo Dec 31, 12 06 32 PMGoing with my instinct and advice from my friends, I used 90 degree Celsius water in a gaiwan for about a minute. This is hotter than I’ve used for similar tea in the past, but I wanted to see what would happen. If the result from such a brew was bitter and pungent, I would know my mistake, but the dry leaves seemed a bit dull; they must be nearly a year old, so I thought I might be able to fire some life into them with hot water. (It turns out that the Franchia site includes instructions that recommend 50 degree water for one minute, but I didn’t see that at the time.)

The liquor was light blond with the aroma of green bark after a spring rain. So much for my impression of the dull leaves! When they got wet, they took on a bright green glow. I think that the matte leaf appearance must just be a characteristic of Korean tea, perhaps due to the final roasting process.

Photo Dec 31, 12 11 46 PM

As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m only familiar with one Korean green: the Nok Cha from Dobra Tea. That tea is milky smooth and rich with a bit of saltiness. The taste of this Wild Green reminded me more of Japanese Gyokuro than Nok Cha, and yet not as smooth or creamy as either. I want to say it was oceanic, but for me that usually means hints of seaweed and salt water and I detected neither in this brew. It had the tasty quality of bean sprouts, snap peas, or kale: a sort of woody sweetness that pervades the mouth and coats the tongue. Like a bowl of Matcha or the best Li Shan, it slowly seeps into the body and mind for a good minute after drinking. A soothing experience to be sure.

Photo Dec 31, 12 11 25 PMI look forward to trying and experimenting more with this tea. From my first leaves I managed to get about 4 great infusions with about the same time and temperature. That’s a good record to start with, for a green tea. Well done, Franchia.

Korean Wild Green Tea 2nd Picked

While attending a Broadway show in New York City this weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a lovely little Korean teahouse and vegan restaurant named Franchia. I confess that I learned about the food first and was drawn in by the tea only after I decided to go. So many restaurants these days will put “teahouse” in their name, meaning that yes, like every other restaurant, they serve something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. Sorry, I get carried away. Actually most places willing to call themselves a teahouse do indeed have tasty tea, but Franchia definitely impressed me with their unique offerings.

franchia_menuI’m familiar with Nok Cha (녹차, or “Green tea”), the delicate tea lovingly produced in Korean gardens, by way of the versions (apparently Jiri Mountain “Jungjak”) procured by Dobra Tea. That hardly qualifies me as experienced, though. I’ve rarely had the opportunity to try any other varieties, but more and more I have read about the delicious things coming out of Korea and now I’ve grown quite curious. It’s been on my to-do list for a few years now to gain at least a little more familiarity with tea from this country.

Well, I was fortunate to stumble across this gem in New York. I highly recommend them for both their food and their camellia sinensis! They offer three harvests of their “Wild Green Tea”. The menu gives water temperatures for each tea, which is already a good sign. Being as it is the middle of winter, I wasn’t sure which one to pick, but I opted for the middle ground and chose the 2nd harvest.

franchia_cupJust as I had come to expect from my previous experiences, the ceramic strainer (I love Korean tea cups) was filled with beautiful whole leaf sets that produced a creamy, but very light-bodied broth. The aroma was a combination of roasted hazelnuts and toasted seaweed that I tend to associate with fine Japanese Gyokuro and Kabusecha. Intoxicating. The taste was delicate and sweet. I found I was able to get just about 3 infusions from the leaves before they began to lose their luster. This also meshes with my previous experiences of Korean greens. Still, there were hints of flowers and a little roastiness that I would like to know better, perhaps with longer infusions. If I hadn’t had to get to a show, I would have sat and tried all three harvests!

franchia_outsideIn my haste to leave, I didn’t even notice that they sell their tea. I will definitely have to return during my next trip South. Perhaps if any one else out there in tea-land has a chance to visit Franchia, they can add their reviews to mine. In the mean time, I will definitely need to check out some Korean offerings from others on the ‘net.