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[Essay] Excerpts from Homage to Green Tea

By Ch’oŭi, Translated by T’ae-yong Hŏ and Ian Haight

The Book of Tea confirms that early-picked leaves have lingering flavor.




These are the four scents of roasted tea: the first is authentic; second is like an orchid; third is clear; and fourth is pure.




If the inside of the tea leaf is roasted equally with the outside, then when brewed, the scent of the tea will be pure. If the leaf is neither raw nor over-roasted, the scent will be clear. If the roasting fire burns evenly, the tea will have the scent of orchids. Tea harvested before The Season of Rain for Grains has its essence preserved and an authentic scent.




A Collection of Tea Fragrances states that for green foam that floats in the bowl, green powder should float in the air near the grinder. Deep green tea has grown in distinction; its bluey-white foam is esteemed for beauty. Yellow, black, red, or pale foam mean the tea has no quality. Snowy-foamed tea is considered best, a bluish foam suggests an average tea, and a yellow-foamed tea is base. A Collection of Tea Fragrances




“Tea trees growing in a small gravel produce optimal leaves, and those in sandy soil are next in choice and that “Tea trees that grow in a valley are supreme.” The Book of Tea.

The tea fields of Hwagaedong Dong are grown in loose stones in a valley.




Shangu said, “I once picked high-mountain tea at my house in Jiangnan.”




Occasionally the efficacy of Korean tea has been doubted—thought to be less than Chinese Yue teas. As I have observed Korean tea, the color, fragrance, effects, and taste have little difference from Chinese tea.




Lu An tea has a famous flavor, and Dream Mountain has a strong medicinal nature, but Korean tea has both these qualities. If Li Zanhuang and Lu Yu were asked, naturally they would agree with my words.





Ch’oŭi (1786-1866) was a Korean Buddhist monk given a traditional Confucian education, making him a uniquely trained scholar of his period. Ch’oŭi is considered one of the first pre-eminent experts on the subject of green tea in Korea.


T’ae-yong Hŏ has been awarded translation grants from the Daesan Foundation and Korea Literature Translation Institute. With Ian Haight, he is the co-translator of Borderland Roads: Selected Poems of Kyun Hŏ—finalist for KLTI’s Grand Prix Prize—and Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim—finalist for ALTA’s Stryk Prize. Working from the original classical Korean, T’ae-yong’s translations of Korean poetry have appeared in Agni, New Orleans Review, and Prairie Schooner.


Ian Haight’s collection of poetry, Celadon, won Unicorn Press’ First Book Prize. With T’ae-yong Hŏ, he is the co-translator of Red Rain on a Spring Mountain: Complete Poems of Nansŏrhŏn and Homage to Green Tea by the Korean monk, Ch’oŭi, both forthcoming from White Pine Press. Other awards include Ninth Letter’s Literary Award in Translation, and grants from the Daesan Foundation, the Korea Literary Translation Institute, and the Baroboin Buddhist Foundation. Poems, essays, interviews, reviews, microfiction and translations appear in Barrow Street, Writer’s Chronicle, Hyundai Buddhist News, Full Stop, MoonPark Review and The Poetry Review (UK). For more information, please visit ianhaight.com.




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