Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The State of The 2011 Korean Tea Harvest
This year was another tough one for Korean tea. It was marred by a colder than seasonal Winter and Spring with frost impacting most of the harvest in Hadong (and even Boseong), pushing back the harvest. The result was the destruction and damage of much of the early spring growth resulting in extremely low yields, somewhere around 50% lower than last year! The result has been higher prices for tea that is already relatively expensive.
Pedro of Dao Tea claims that the price of leaves bought directly from the farmers in Hadong are approximately 200% higher this year than 2009. Fortunately, not all of these price increases have been passed down to the consumer in Korea although there are slight increases on the shelf price. Those who are trying to bring Korean tea to the Western market will be hit the hardest paying the brunt of the difference as Korean tea farmers are demanding more dollar for less tea and see bulk sales as the way to recoup their loss. It makes sense considering that the demand is still relatively high but there is simply less tea to be had.
As far as the quality of the 2011 harvest, most say that it was unaffected. Korean tea farmers take pride in their harvests and are ensuring that the quality remains high. HoGo (aka Tea Off) was recently on the ground in Hadong sourcing some original Korean ceramics (see here for some of the pieces that he has brought back for sale). He felt that the ujeon harvest was not as nice as previous years, he is definitely not alone in his criticism.
This years Korean tea has not yet arrived on the door step so we'll have to wait and see.
Watch for updates to the List of English Online Korean Tea Vendors in the months to come.