60 Years of Tradition…
Plantations Certified as Organic
Similarly to coffee whose types and taste differ depending on the place of origin and roasting method, tea is also made into different types based on where it is cultivated and how it is processed. Jakseol-cha (green tea made with young tea leaves) and hwang-cha (yellow tea made with dried tea leaves) are recognized as teas of the highest grade because of the sophisticated production process. The exporter we’d like to introduce you to today is a company that has been exporting luxurious types of green tea for two generations.
A Living Witness of the Korean Green Tea Industry, Hankook Tea
Hankook Tea is located in Gwangju City. Founded in 1951, it is a specialized tea company that has been producing green tea for over two generations. The business has been able to survive in the rapidly changing Korean society and produce high quality tea leaves for 60 years because of years of accumulated know-how and because Hankook tea bet on thorough management.
Mr. Seo Min-su, President of Hankook Tea, says, “There “are many exporters of green tea, but there are few companies that operate their own tea plantations and process the tea they produce.” He added, “That is the key to producing as the main items jakseol-cha and hwang-cha of the top grade.”
Hankook Tea owns several tea farms in South Jeolla Province―in Jangseong, Yeongam, Haenam, Boseong, and other places. The total area of its plantations is over 33ha. The first plantation the company built was in Jangseong in 1965. It is the northernmost large tea farm in Korea. Thanks to the location, the green tea produced there can keep its scent and flavor for a long time. The main farm of Hankook Tea―in the Yeongam area―obtained USDA International Organic Certification in 2010.
The processing plant of Hankook Tea is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to produce high-quality tea products. However, the secret of the superb taste of Hankook Tea products is not in the latest equipment.
Mr. Seo said, “Blending is as important for green tea as it is for coffee.” He explained that since tea is a plant, there is a difference each year, even if it is managed by the same people. So it is impossible to produce year after year the green tea of the same excellent flavor, unless you have the know-how based on traditions.
Renewing the Production with Small Packaging…Entering the US Market
Hankook Tea started exporting green tea in 2005. In the words of Mr. Seo, “As green tea came into the limelight due to the global boom of healthy living, we turned our eyes to exports.” To expand exports, Hankook Tea opened an office in Los Angeles in the U.S., and is operating a tea academy where people can learn about the history of Korean green tea and tea culture. The storytelling approach is designed to promote awareness about Korean green tea and highlight the excellence of the products.
Mr. Seo said, “Thanks to these efforts, we were able to start supplying our premium green tea products such as jakseol-cha and hwang-cha to local tea shops and increase the consumer awareness.”
Recently, Hankook Tea has attempted to extend its business to the American retail market. For this purpose, Hankook Tea reduced the volume of packages from 100g to 20g.
Mr. Seo hopes that small packages and localized design will make it easier for local consumers to enjoy the Hankook Tea products. The information about the proper amount of water and brewing time is provided on the packages in detail, so even those who have no idea about a tea ceremony can savor the company’s green tea.
Starting Exports to China with Various Processed Products such as Powdered Green Tea and Green Tea Latte
Hankook Tea has also recently succeeded in exporting mal-cha (powdered green tea). The green tea powder that the company sells is used as an ingredient for green tea ice cream in a fast food chain in Singapore.
Mal-cha is a product easily found on the market, but since it is made with whole tea leaves, a good product requires thorough quality management.
Mr. Seo said, “The fast food restaurant that we have a contract with is famous around the world, so there were many companies bidding for the chance to become a supplier and the competition was very tough. We succeeded in this effort to advance into the Singaporean market because the counterpart acknowledged the quality of our products. We appealed with the excellence of the tea leaves and the fact that we are recognized by the Korean government as masters of mal-cha.”
Hankook Tea views its entry into Singapore as a springboard to reaching the Chinese market. Mr. Seo reveals, “Recently, we have developed a green tea latte product using mal-cha. We will spur our efforts to cultivate the Chinese and ASEAN markets with various types of processed tea products.”
How to Enjoy the Tea Produced by a Food Master
No matter how excellent the tea leaves are, we won’t enjoy their flavor unless we brew the tea properly. To feel the superb scent and flavor of Hankook Tea’s jakseol-cha to the fullest, do not pour the boiled water into a cup right away, but wait until it has cooled down in the kettle.
The tannin in Korean green tea is stronger than in Chinese and Japanese teas, so it may give off more bitterness if the water is too hot.
Brew it in water 60-70℃ for two to three minutes. The best water temperature for brewing hwang-cha is 70-80℃.
Inquiries Hankook Tea