Posted in Kafevend Blog

The Korean tea ceremony

After last week's look at tea farming in South Korea we return to look at Korea's tea ceremony in today's blog. Less well known and certainly less intricate than Chadō,  its Japanese counterpart, the Korean tea ceremony is certainly an interesting cultural practice.

Day Tea Rite

The ceremony is named Darye which means 'Day Tea Rite'. Having been initially introduced to Korea by Buddhist monks returning from China, tea was seen as an aid to meditation. Taoists also used ceremonial tea drinking as a means to finding the way to spiritual enlightenment. When Confucianism first replaced Buddhism in Korea during the 14th century, tea drinking and the rites associated with it were marginalised. In time, however, Confucian scholars began to use tea ceremonies to aid their own meditation. Although it has the same religious and meditative associations as the Japanese tea ceremony, Darye is certainly a less rigidly coded and formal affair. The methods are quicker to learn and the social aspect of sharing tea is very important too. The tearoom doesn't have to be carefully thought out and decorated as it is in Japan, nor does the ceremony involve such intricate and choreographed movements between host and guests.

While matcha lies at the heart of Chadō, green tea forms the basis of Darye. The green tea used is known as Panyaro – the 'Dew of Enlightening Wisdom' and named as such by a great Korean tea master of the 20th century, Venerable Hyo-Dang, whose 1973 book 'The Korean Way of Tea' encouraged a revival of Darye- we'll take a more in depth look at his life and work in the field of tea in a future blog.

Tea with ceremony

The ceremony is performed either on a mat or at a low table, with the participants kneeling down and the equipment used is kept very simple. The teaware is often earthenware or stoneware, generally unpatterned and a neutral colour. Tea bowls and coasters are used instead of cups and saucers. Rather than pouring water straight from the kettle into the teapot, a cooling bowl is used as a halfway house because boiling water would spoil the green tea leaves, making them taste bitter and destroying their delicate aroma. The host may well be dressed in a traditional hanbok, the national costume. She or he will actually pour themselves a small taster from the teapot first, just to check that it's alright! Once the guests' tea has been poured, it's handed out along with a coaster. The guests pick up their coaster along with their tea bowl, rather as you'd pick up your saucer along with your cup. Three sips are taken in order to separately take note of and enjoy the tea's colour, aroma and taste.

Although it might be wrong to equate Darye directly with Britain's old tradition of afternoon tea, it certainly has a social as well as a spiritual function. And when you stop to think about it we also use tea as a way to calm the mind and strengthen our resolve. Remember to check in this time next week to learn more about the man who kick started a tea revival in Korea; we mentioned him earlier- the Venerable Hyo-Dang.

Korean tea ceremony
Performing Darye

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