As with many things in life, “timing” is very important when it comes to farming.
There is a time and season for everything – finding the most ideal location, preparing the soil, planting the seed, providing the proper care and environment, and harvesting. Depending on what you plan on growing, there will be more or less time and effort required on certain steps. The amount of “proper” care will determine the final outcome of the finished product.
Lunar Calendar vs. Western Calendar?
Many Asian countries follow the Lunar calendar for many things – farming is one of those things. The Lunar calendar calculates the distance of the sun from earth to calculate the coming of seasons, and because the seasons don’t always fall on the specific dates (as with the Western calendar), it makes more sense to follow the Lunar calendar.
According to the Lunar calendar, there are 24 seasonal division (2 seasonal divisions in each month). Visit Wikipedia for more information about this.
Tea picking season starts with Gokwoo (곡우).
Gokwoo is the 6th of the 24 seasonal divisions, falling on the 20th or 21st of April. This is the rainfall for seeding. (In Hanja, gok stands for gok-shik, meaning “grain”; woo represents rain; literally translation meaning “grain rain”.)
As mentioned in my previous post about tea grades in Korea, the Ujeon or Woojeon grade (the first shooting buds – a very special grade) is picked just before Gokwoo (u or woo = rain;, jeon =before).
Ibha (입하) is the 7th of the 24 seasonal divisions, falling on the 5th or 6th of May. Sejak grade (the delicate leaves and bud at the tip) is picked right before and after this time (immediately after the Ujeon grade). (In Hanja, ib stands for “entrance” or “enter”; ha means “summer”; literally translation meaning “enter summer”, indicating the beginning of summer.)
Somahn (소만), Mang-jong (만종) and Haji (하지) follow.
The Joongjak grade (more full-grown leaves) is picked after Sejak and is picked all the way up to Haji (also known as “Summer Solstice”), which is the 10th of the 24 seasonal divisions, falling on the 20th or 21st of June. (In Hanja, ha means “summer” and ji means “reaching”, indicating the peak of summer.)
Following Haji is Sohsuh (소서), Daesuh (대서) and Ipchu (입추). These are the seasonal divisions leading into fall/autumn (Ipchu meaning “enter fall/autumn”). Depending on the company/farmer, tea leaves will be harvested all the way into the beginning of fall.
Again, depending on the company or farmer, the way someone grades tea in Korea will slightly differ. Some will grade solely on size, others solely on the time harvested – most use a combination of the two (especially with the currently fickle weather).
Knowing both the size reference and harvest time will help determine what kind of grade of tea you are getting in Korea. Also, knowing the general processing method of green tea will also help in choosing the “right tea” for you.
Tea Farming: Raise it Right