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We’re new to the game in South Korea but apparently so are they - that is, as far as quality tea export trade goes.

See for a long time including now, the Korean government has placed high tariffs (over 250% for green tea, closer to 40% for other tea types) on tea imports. This is to artificially stimulate domestic consumption of homegrown green (nok) and red (hong) teas and steer locals away from once popular Japanese sencha and matcha and Chinese teas. So there has been minimal incentive to export tea. However now, there’s been a quality-focussed resurgence amongst the new generation of growers and manufacturers. These “new wave” artisans are keen to get the word out although it’s still early days. They’re doing the rounds at international expos a bit more but prices remain relatively non-competitive.

For medium to high grade teas, they can be around twice or more the price of their Japanese and Chinese counterparts. We’re told it is because of high wages and high costs of living in Korea. But it’s also because of limited supply. Korea’s harsh and often over-extended winters mean harvests get cut short, especially the spring flush (gokwoo). Short supply and high domestic demand forms the perfect conditions for a seller’s market.

Despite this, we just could not resist sharing our finds. On both taste and processing, they are very unique, there’s nothing quite like it in the world. We buy direct from two producers - Hankook, one of the country’s largest and on the flipside, Bohyang, a small family grower in Boseong, home to the majority of the country’s tea production.