If you somehow weren’t aware, green tea is super trendy right now.
The global interest in green tea is booming, due to its insane amount of reputed health benefits, which include reducing chances of cancers and heart disease; slowing aging; lowering cholesterol; boosting the immune system; improving diabetes and arthritis; helping weight loss; and, most importantly, making your skin glow. (The brochure I picked up also tells me that a green tea pack is good for your skin as it can whiten your skin and freckles, but I am not about those beauty standards.) As if those (minus the whitening/freckle thing) weren’t enough to make you want to guzzle it by the gallon, it also has extraordinary lack of bad side effects, no matter how much you drink.
Forty percent of all of South Korea’s green tea is produced at Boseong, so if you’re a tea-lover (or if you love yourself enough to go drink some green tea), Boseong is definitely a must-visit place in Korea.
A Brief Histor-tea
(I’ll see myself out)
Koreans began to drink tea imported from China during 600s. During this time, China had a strict monopoly on tea, and was only looking to trade or sell, not teach other cultures how to cultivate it themselves. It was only two hundred years or so later in 828 that Korea’s first tea field was planted, when Ambassador Kim Dae-ryeom smuggled some tea seeds out of southern China by sewing them into the hem of his robe. This field and its surrounding descendants flourished during the zen, Buddhist-oriented Goryeo Dynasty (fun fact: the word Korea is derived from Goryeo!), as everyone apparently spent all their free time drinking tea and meditating, just like real OG hipsters. Tea was so important during the Goryeo Dynasty was even a government post (Dabang) that managed tea, and tea was used during the coronations of the Crown Princes. (Korea has only had two queens, both from the earlier Silla period.)
Tea became both more abundant and cheaper as the years passed, and thus spread from the upper class to the lower. I am very grateful for this, as it means that a peasant like me can afford green tea ice cream without attending any royal weddings.
The first tea fields at Boseong were planted in 1930’s and then promply destroyed by the Korean war. In 1957, the Boseong green tea fields were re-planted and has flourished ever since.
Visiting the Boseong Green Tea Fields
The Boseong green tea fields are perhaps one of the prettiest and most practical places in Korea. The tea is grown near the ocean in tiers on the slopes of a mountain. The early morning mist from the sea provides the tea with the moisture it needs, while the mountain helps protect the tea from too much harsh sunlight.
There are a couple of different hiking routes you can take, as seen on slightly crumpled map below. (or the much clearer Korean map, but then again, it’s in Korean.)
I myself went up through the Boseong green tea fields to the Ocean Observatory (at the top right of the map) and back down to the ‘left’ around the Falls. It is pretty steep, so make sure you wear a pair of good shoes.
Of course, as you can see there are plenty of ways to hike your way through the green tea fields, and all of them are gorgeous. I recommend taking your time and finding your own way through.
(Note: I’m not quite sure what “The Elderly and the Parking Lot” found on the English map means, but I’m hoping it’s a punk band.)
What to Have at Boseong
According to my handy-dandy English brochure I got, there are five different types of green tea produced at the Boseong green tea fields. I’ll list them here in order of most delicate taste to strongest.
Woojeon Tea – Premium tea made from very young leaves collected before April 20th. The flavor profile is very delicate.
Sejak – Made from leaves collected during early May, when the leaves are still young. (Fun fact: sejak means “bird tongue!”)
Jungjak – Made from leaves collected during mid-May.
Daejak – Made from leaves collected at the end of May.
Yep Cha – Made from fully ripened leaves collected during June and July. The flavor is quite strong in this one.
There’s a gift store where you can purchase all of these teas (and other cutesy little items). I bought a giant bag of yep cha (for only 7,000 won!) which I am sure I’ll be drinking until I leave Korea.
Green tea ice cream is, of course, a must. Depending on where you buy it, it costs between 2,000 won (at the parking lot) or 3,500 won (at the actual fields. I guess the extra 1,500 is the Instagram fee.)
What Your Mom Would Call “Real Food”
My friends and I went to a restaurant for lunch and ate green tea galbi (녹차갈비). There are a ton of other green tea flavored foods found all over the town of Boseong, ranging from green tea pancakes (녹차전) to green tea cold noodles (녹차냉면). Of course, there are non-green tea options to be found, but why not take full advantage of your green tea trip?
When to Visit Boseong
Evidently, they start harvesting the tea in late April. When I went to the Boseong green tea fields in late May there were a few bare spots, but it was still quite pretty! There’s also a festival (there’s a festival for everything in Korea) during this period every year.
Judging by the fact that the last of the teas are harvested in June and July (and the fact that Korean summers are roughly as hot and humid as Satan’s showers), I can safely say those are probably the worst times to visit the Boseong green tea fields.
The snowy winters are also apparently a gorgeous time to come. Unfortunately for this blog, I tend to spend the winters hibernating.
How to get to Boseong
You can get almost anywhere by train in Korea, but I’m not that fond of them. They make a lot of stops (and loudly announce all of their stops, so you can’t even nap well) and go under a lot of mountains that make your ears pop.
If you really want to ignore my sage advice and take a train anyway, you’ll need to go to Yongsan Station in Seoul and catch the train from there to Suncheon. From Suncheon, you’ll have to transfer to a bus anyway, so you might as well just take a bus.
For your convenience, here’s a bus chart I snagged from the Boseong website, which you can also find here.
For Seoul, you’ll need to go to the Express Bus Terminal Station (고속터미날, Subway Line 3, 7 & 9).
From Gwangju: Take the bus from U-Square (유스퀘어, also known as 광주종합버스터미널.
From Busan: Take the bus fromSeobu Bus Terminal 부산서부시외버스터미널
From Suncheon: Take the bus from Suncheon Bus Terminal heading towards Gangjin (강진). This bus will stop at Boseong Green Tea Fields on its way.
As the Boseong green tea fields are so far from, well, most major cities, I really recommend taking a few days and checking out the smaller, quaint southern cities like Suncheon, Jeonju and/or Namwon.
Name in Korean: 보성녹차밭 대한다원
Address: 763-67, Nokcha-ro Boseong-eup, Boseong-gun, Jeollanam-do
Address in Korean: 전라남도 보성군 보성읍 녹차로 763-67
Adults: Individual 4,000 won
Group of 20 people or more) 3,000 won
Children and seniors (ages 6-17 or above 65, respectively): 3,000 won
Children ages 5 and below: Free of charge
May-August – 09:00 -19:00 (last admission)
September-April – 09:00-18:00 (last admission)
※ Closes at 20:00 (19:00 during winter)
ONE FINAL FUN FACT: Boseong green tea was picked as the official drink for Korea’s first astronaut, So Yeon Lee. So when they say that Boseong green tea is out of this world famous, it’s actually quite literal.