Tea Tour Korea

A Morning Earth Tours Site

  There is something compelling about tea that goes far beyond the ordinary.  Each morning I sit with a Korean tea cup, small, no handle, subtle in color and form, fitting my hand like no other.  It is filled with Korean green tea - picked early in the spring - warm to both the hand and heart.  Those moments take me away from the blur of daily life to peace and clarity.  For me, that is ‘tea’.

     I  suppose each of us has their moment of ‘tea’ or we would not be interested in this web site.  We have discovered the compelling nature of tea.  For me that time comes from that perfect joining of Korean tea and Korean tea cup.  

    We just returned from a tour to Korea where we traveled into the mountains near Gangjin and sat with a monk who served us an aged ‘red’ tea in cake form, made only at his temple - a rediscovery of the tea made there during the Koryo Dynasty.

    Koreans and Japanese have long known about Korean tea but Korean tea is little known in the Western world.  Few books on tea contain any information on Korean tea*.  However, knowledgeable tea connoisseurs have reported that handpicked and processed Korean green teas are among the best green teas in the world.  It is said of Korean green tea that it has both the taste of Luan tea and the healing-powers of Mengshan tea*.

   At the same time, knowledgeable tea ware connoisseurs have reported that hand formed Korean tea bowls are historically the finest tea bowls in the world.  Even today, many tea ware connoisseurs from around the world, but principally from Japan, travel to Korea to find outstanding tea bowls.  They have been known to pay enormous prices for new Korean tea bowls and present prestigious awards to Korean tea ware potters.  Most books that include information on tea bowls include long descriptions of selected Korean examples.  The famous book An Unknown Craftsman: a Japanese Insight Into Beauty by Japan’s famous aesthetician Soetsu Yanagi includes an entire chapter on one very humble Korean teabowl.

   The discrepancy between the appreciation of Korean tea and Korean tea ware is enormous.  We hope this tour will begin to pave the way toward a greater appreciation for Korean tea so that one day the two worlds of Korean tea, tea ware and tea, will both be greatly appreciated.



   On my first trip to Korea, now more than thirty years ago, a friend took me to visit a potter.  The potter’s work was very Korean, made of porcelain and at first glance simple, humble and plain - quiet in its subtle beauty.  As we sat, the potter’s daughter, dressed in a simple white hanbok, walked slowly into the room carrying a tray on which were works by her father.  Quietly she placed the tray on the low table and sat on the floor.  It was fascinating to watch her first warm the bowl and cups with hot water and then with graceful fluid movements simply prepare tea.  I had never experienced tea like that before.  The flavor was so profound, the poetic moment unforgettable.  It was not a ceremony, but it was the Korean way of tea.   

    In their book The Korean Way of Tea Brother Anthony of Taize and Hong Kyeong-Hee write:

‘Sitting in a traditional Korean house, with doors and windows open to the early morning sunshine, the taste of the first cup of tea, made with water that is far below boiling point, on a palate freshly awakened, is so intense, so indescribably fragrant, that from that day on the only question can be: ‘When shall I be able to go back and drink that tea again? 

That too is the Korean way of tea. 

   Recently, we traveled high into the mountains near Gyeongju, the capitol of Silla at the time when tea was first introduced into Korea.  There we visited a potter who had made his home and teahouse from raw clay he dig nearby and from trees hewn from the mountain.  With his simple natural tea ware, lightly glazed or just kissed by the now melted fly ash during the firing, we sat as he prepared tea.  First powdered tea, using his tea bowls, was presented.  Then, in another area, prepared by his wife, infused tea (possibly from hand picked and processed wild tea) was presented using his teapot, pouring bowl and cups.  It was a tea ware spiritual awakening.  That too is the Korean way of tea.        

   It is these experiences and more that have guided us to offer you this unparalleled opportunity to experience the Korean way of tea.

    This is not a commercial tea tour highlighting the Korean movies filmed at one of Bosong’s tea plantations.  Your tour will be in-depth and will highlight both quality tea and quality tea ware. 

   The tour will begin in Seoul with an introduction to Korean tea presented by Brother Anthony of Taize, co-author of the book The Korean Way of Tea.  Then it will travel to the International Mungyeong Tea Bowl Festival where you will see the work of international and local tea ware artists.  Mungyeong has a thousand year history of producing tea ware.  Three ceramic Human Cultural Treasures live in Mungyeong among many other excellent tea ware artists.  This is one of the sites where Hideoshi’s army camped during the Imjin or “Pottery War”.  Many potters were taken from this area in that historic war.  They helped lay the foundation for Japan’s pottery today. 

    Although we are beginning at a festival, and return to another festival, we usually like to avoid crowds and travel to out of the way places.  The tour becomes much quieter and spiritual as we trace both the history of Korean tea ceramics and the history of Korean tea.


   Brother Anthony of Taize and Hong Kyeong-Hee are helping to plan and will participate in the tea portion of this tour.  As mentioned, at the beginning, they will introduce the tour.  They will join us when we enter the tea area of Jirisan.  This mountain is famous as the area that produces the “best tea in Korea”.  It is here where tea was first planted in Korea.  After touring several tea plantations, Br. Anthony and Mr. Hong will take us to the  quiet temple of Hwaeom-sa*, famous for its ancient wild tea.   There you will experience temple life or you may choose to rest at a nearby hotel.  The following morning, Br. Anthony, Mr. Hong and the temple monks will guide you through the experience of picking and processing your own Korean green tea. 

   The tea portion of the tour will allow you to witness several tea plantations, including Bosong, but focusing on Jirisan, and we will also travel to Gangjin.  Gangjin is famous for its celadon.  The Goryeo Dynasty, the era of celadon ceramics, witnessed the height of Korean tea.  But it is not celadon that makes Gangjin an historic stop for Korean tea connoisseurs.  You will learn the answer and much more on the tour.         

   We, with the help of Chung Yang-mo, foremost authority on Korean ceramics, are planning the tea ware portion of the tour.  We have more than 40 years of Korean ceramic research experience and have selected some of Korea’s more interesting tea ware artists.  They include a potter considered by some Japanese and Korean authorities to produce the finest teabowls in Asia.  You will visit Human Cultural treasures of various ceramic styles and the humble potter whose raw clay home sits high in the mountains near Gyeongju.      

    We simply want to introduce you to the Korean way of tea.  Our hope is that on this tour, with guests including tea connoisseurs, tea ware artists and others, you experience at least one moment when you will not only witness the Korean way of tea but will feel it deeply. “To read is to know, to experience is to understand.”

   The tour is taking a year of planning and will be announced internationally.  You will go with a small group of others, to out of the way places seldom seen by Korean travelers let alone “tourists”.  You will enter the exclusive world of Korean Tea and unlock the secrets that make both Korean tea and Korean tea ware worthy of the search.

  To reserve your spot on this unprecedented tour, without obligation, and to learn more about the experiences that await you on Tea Tour Korea please register.  Space is limited for this remarkable journey. 

   Morning Earth tours are priced below other Korean tours of similar length.  The goal of Morning Earth is simply to introduce you to the richness and depth of Korean arts and culture.  Touch the heart of Korean Tea. 

Register to be on the tour list and to be informed when new information is available.  No obligation.


  1. *Lu Yu’s Cha Jing, the first ever book on tea, describes Luan green tea as being a “superior tea”.  In recent years Luan tea won China’s Tea Award for its superior refreshing taste and quality.  Korean green tea is compared to Luan and Mengshan.

  2. *Mengshan green tea is picked from the international tea culture holy mountain.  It is known for its high concentration of phenois, taste and other health related qualities. 

  3. *The world knows that  Japan uses the word  “chawan” meaning “tea bowl”.  That term is not specifically Japanese.  As in the word “cha” or tea the word “chawan” is a universal term originating in China and adopted by several countries to designate a bowl (wan) used for tea (cha).  Koreans also use the word “chawan” to designate a tea bowl.  To designate a tea bowl used for a ceremony, such as an ancestral rites ceremony, Koreans use the term “dawan” or “ceremony bowl”.  In recent years some Koreans have adopted the term chasabal to designate a Korean tea (cha) bowl (sabal).   A sabal, however, is usually a bowl from which one eats, like a rice bowl.  It is widely known that Korean rice bowls were adopted in Japan for use as tea bowls.

  4. * In Korean, the tea set is ‘ch’at gi’ and the Korean teapot is ‘ch’akwan or ch’at-chonja’, tea cups are ‘ch’at-chan’.  The bowl for cooling tea is ‘mulshikim sabal or kwittaekurut’.  The ornamental tea caddy is ‘ch’aho’ and the spoon or scoop for transferring tea, often made of bamboo is ‘ch’asi’.   Finally, the large water discard bowl is called ‘kaesukurut’.  

  5. *Did you know that Korea’s Seon Buddhism is the purest form of “Zen” Buddhism in the world?

  6. *The photo on our splash page was taken in Bosong.  Bosong is an important  tea area, and we will visit it, but it is not indicative of the depth of this tea tour that will take you to some of Korea’s more remote and exclusive wild tea hermitages, temples and people.  There, among your adventures, you will both pick and process tea by hand.  Tea Tour Korea will be an in-depth tea and tea ware tour.  Like all Morning Earth personal tours it will be priced as reasonably as possible and be limited to a small group.

  7. *Tea Tour Korea will have between 10 and 20 participants, no more.  Register now to be included on this select group on this historic tour.

  8. *Note: We are currently doing research that will eventually result in a book on Korean tea ware or Korean ceramics.  We have more than 40 years of Korean ceramic research experience.   

Tea Slides


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Tea Ware



Information in English on Hwaeom-sa can be found on David Mason’s web site.

*The term “sa” in Korean designates a temple (that has more than one Buddha).  Some may think it is redundant to write Hwaeom-sa, for example, and include after it the word “Temple”.  However, the practice, in English, is often to include the word “Temple” to clarify the designation for an English language audience.

*One other notable exception to the lack of information on Korean tea is the book The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss.  To learn more, go to  www.CooksShopHere.com and www.TeaTrekker.com.   Their new book The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook is coming out in March 2010.