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‘Thousand-Year’ Tea Sells for 13M Won

Posted May. 22, 2006 03:01,   


Green tea leaves picked from a thousand-year old tree sold for 13 million won at a special auction prepared as part of the “11th Hadong Wild Tea Culture Festival” in front of the Green Tea Culture Center in Hadong County, Gyeongnam Province at 2:00 p.m. yesterday.

After Chun Sang-yeon, the head of an association to promote Hadong green tea announced in front of 500 audiences that the millenary green tea was sold to the Myung Won Cultural Foundation in Seoul, the highest bidder, people let out their mixed feelings of admiration and shock.

Many of them bid 10.01 million, 11.52 million and 11.55 million won to win the tea since May 19, the first day of the auction. Most of the bidders were tea-growers, researchers and religious organizations.

Moments later, Myung Won Cultural Foundation head Kim Eui-jung declared that the foundation will donate the green tea to Hadong County, wishing that Hadong green tea can win global fame.

Amid applause, Kim said, “Our foundation and I have had the pleasure of preserving Korea’s tradition and tea ceremony,” and added that the millenary tea is unique in the world and that the excellence of Hadong green tea doesn’t need any explanation.

The foundation is an educational organization devoted to spreading and establishing tea culture. Chairwoman Kim is recognized as Korea’s 27th intangible cultural asset holder in the field of Korea’s royal tea ceremony, and is the second daughter of foundation founder Kim Mi-hee.

The millenary tea auction attracted much interest and controversy from its planning stage.

The millenary tea auction started at the price of 10 million won to promote the tea’s superiority and mark the fact that the tea leaves were picked from a 1,000-year old tree. However, the auction drew criticism that the high-priced bidding was creating a feeling of incongruity.

Millenary tea is even 100 times more expensive than Woojeon tea that is considered a high-end tea with price of 100,000 won per 100 grams. Most luxury brand green teas, which are processed by green tea masters and sold at department stores, cost around 2.5 million won.

Millenary tea, however, has a number of unique values.

The tea leaves were picked from a green tea tree owned by the head of the Dosimdawon (green tea farmhouse), Oh Si-young (55). The tree was designated as the 264th South Gyeongsang Province monument. It is 4.2 meters high and 57 centimeters in circumference, and is presumed to be 1,000 years old.

The millenary tea, which Oh made with new leaves collected at the end of April with sincere dedication, is renowned for its mild taste and deep scent. In addition, the tea was put up for auction along with a separately made lacquered container and tea caddy inlaid with mother of pearl and a teaspoon decorated with 75 grams of pure gold.

The tree is able to produce around 200 grams of tea leaves annually, but its tea leaves are not picked in general. The tree is protected as a historical artifact and as the tree is so tall that the picking process might damage the branches. For these reasons, another auction like this one has not been scheduled.

Jeong-Hoon Kang manman@donga.com