May 23, 2013 by rkpcs
The team spent a very busy day on 22nd May exploring the northern reaches of the area of Gwangyang with our helpful and enthusiastic group of hosts. The emphasis of the team’s learning today has been about the impressive self-sufficiency which South Korea has developed over the course of the most recent decades and some of the products which are locally produced that demonstrate this attribute.
The day began with a visit to Cheong Maesil farm which is situated in the lower reaches of Baegun mountain. The farm produces the key product for which this area is famed, Chinese plums. Whilst they derive from the plum family, the fruit is more akin to an apricot to a plum. They are small, green and, as the team soon found, somewhat tart in flavour when eat fresh from the tree. The fruit, once picked during May and June, is transformed within the farm’s own grounds into a wide range of different products including fermented fruit, concentrate, tea, sweets, jam and pastes. The farm has all of the facilities on site to allow all of these processes to be undertaken independently, including a huge array of oongi pots at the front of the property.
The farm is 600,000 square metres in size and employs 100 people during the year, with the produce intended entirely for use in South Korea. The farm does not waste anything from the fruit which it grows by making and selling pillows stuffed with the pips and it effectively capitalises on all available assets by holding an annual festival during the month that the tree blossom is in bloom which attract 100,000 tourists to the area. The efforts of the farm have been recognised with a “Master of Trade” award by the South Korean government in recognition for the head matriarch’s contribution to the domestic agricultural industry.
After a visit to a local market which specialises in the huge array of dried ingredients required for creating the Korean dish Bibimbab (sampled by the team for the first time at lunch), the team visited the temple of Ssanggyesa. Marked by a sign requiring silence at its entrance, the temple is a tranquil place surrounded by mountains, allowing time for reflection and tranquillity. The temple is situated on Jiri mountain which is believed by Buddhists to be a sacred mountain. Within the temple is an inscription that the first Korean tea field was planted on Jiri mountain. The planting of tea at this site led to the introduction of tea in Korea as other Buddhist temples followed suit by planting tea plantations around their temple site throughout the country. Today, tea has grown into a national cultural symbol of tradition and great importance.
Next the team visited the nearby tea cultural centre. The team learned about the differences between Japanese tea (recently made by the team in Beosung) and Korean tea, the tea produced locally, which is by far the more popular of the two within Korea. Korean tea is now grown throughout the country, with the tea of this district being recognised as the original Korean tea product.
The team had the opportunity to sample the local tea and to learn of the five benefits of tea, the six effects and the benefits that consuming a course of seven cups of tea can bring. Never has a tea break seemed more important!
The team managed to squeeze in a visit to the village of Hadong, a traditional Korean village which allows visitors to appreciate typical housing which was used historically within the country. The village is often used to film Korean dramas and during the team’s visit, it was being dressed for filming the following day.
Heading back to the city, a delicious meal of grilled pork and an unusual delicacy of mixed raw beef and octopus finished off another fascinating day.