Hadong: The Heartland of Korean Green Tea Tradition and Innovation

Hadong, a picturesque county in South Gyeongsang Province, is one of the three major tea-producing regions in South Korea, alongside Boseong in South Jeolla Province and Jeju Island. As of December 2020, Hadong’s 1,060 tea-farming households cultivated 726 hectares of tea fields, yielding an annual production of 1,223 tons, which accounts for 30.1% of the country’s total tea production (4,061 tons).

A Rich History Steeped in Tradition

 

Hadong boasts a remarkable 1,200-year history of tea agriculture. The Samguk Sagi, a historical record of the Three Kingdoms period, mentions that tea seeds brought from Tang China during the Silla Dynasty were planted in the Jirisan mountain region. The area around Ssanggye Temple in Hwagae-myeon, Hadong, is believed to be the birthplace of tea cultivation in Korea. 

 

Ideal Growing Conditions

 

Tea plants thrive in warm, rainy climates, and Hadong, located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, offers the perfect environment. The Hwagae-myeon area, where the Seomjin River and Hwagae Stream converge, is particularly renowned for its misty and humid conditions, making it an ideal spot for tea cultivation

 

The Art of Traditional Tea Production

 

Hadong green tea is made using the traditional “Jeda” method, which involves handpicking tea leaves from wild tea trees growing on the steep slopes of the Jirisan mountains and processing them in hot cast-iron cauldrons. The tea leaves are then roasted and rubbed to create the final product. In 2017, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognized Hadong’s traditional tea agriculture as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System, acknowledging its value and significance.

hadong tea plantation

Embracing Innovation: Powdered Green Tea


Building on its rich tea history and culture, Hadong County has been focusing on developing its tea industry, particularly the production of powdered green tea, which Japan has traditionally dominated. The Hadong Green Tea Research Institute, established in 2007 as the nation’s first specialized tea research facility, has been at the forefront of this endeavor, with support from the government and Gyeongsangnam-do Province.


Since 2014, the institute has been dedicated to developing shading cultivation techniques, which involve protecting the first flush of tea leaves from sunlight for about 20 days before harvesting. This method helps achieve a light green color in the tea. The institute also imported special stone mills from Japan to produce finely ground, high-quality powdered tea. 

 

Expanding Global Reach


Hadong County’s efforts have paid off, with exports of premium powdered green tea reaching $3 million to 15 countries, including the United States and Australia, in the previous year. This figure represents a sixfold increase from $500,000 five years ago. The county aims to achieve exports of $5 million this year and $6 million by next year.

 

Conclusion


As Hadong continues to innovate and promote its green tea industry, it is clear that this region is not only preserving its rich tea heritage but also embracing modern techniques to create exceptional products that captivate tea enthusiasts worldwide. With its commitment to tradition and quality, Hadong is poised to become a global leader in the green tea market, showcasing the best of what Korean tea has to offer. For more information about Hadong green tea and its benefits, visit the Hadong Tea Site page and explore the rich history and unique cultivation methods that make this tea so special.

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