Last February, the Unjong Tea Drink Factory was inaugurated in Rangnang District, Pyongyang.
Tea has long been considered a “drink of spirits” which refreshes and calms the mind, as well as an elixir of life to cure all illnesses.
The Korean tea culture has a long-standing tradition.
The tea culture of Korea originated in the period of Three Kingdoms—Koguryo, Paekje and Silla that existed between the 3rd century BC and 10th century AD.
National classics Samguksagi (The Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms) compiled in 1145 and Samgukyusa (The History of the Three Kingdoms) from the mid-thirteenth century and other historical records say that Korean people drank tea from that period.
Samguksagi says that tea began to be grown from the early seventh century and it came into vogue when tea trees were planted on Mt Jiri. A Koguryo tomb mural depicts people drinking tea.
Given the 2 000-year history of the cultivation of tea trees, the fact that Koreans drank tea over 1 400 years ago shows that the tea culture of the Korean nation has a very long tradition.
Later, the tea culture continued to develop through the periods of Palhae and Later Silla. During the Koryo dynasty, the production and popularization of elegant Koryo ceramics facilitated the vogue for Koryo tea which has a special flavour and fragrance.
Among the Koryo ceramics which were richly varied in shape, kind and use, teakettles, tea leaf pots and teacups took a large share. Some historical documents record that drinking Koryo tea in an emerald green celadon cup gave an incomparable flavour.
The tea-drinking custom went on to prevail in the period of the feudal Joson dynasty.
Sinjungdonggukyojisungnam, a national geography book of Korea compiled in 1530, says that tributes from southern regions to the central government included various kinds of teas. A nineteenth century Silhak scholar Jong Yak Yong was nicknamed Tasan (mountain of tea trees) as he loved to grow tea trees on his own and enjoy the delicate flavour of tea.
In that period, the concept of tea gradually expanded to further diversify and develop the tea culture by including drinks made by infusing or brewing fruits and roots of chrysanthemum, matrimony vine, Schizandra chinensis, jujube, insam (ginseng) and other plants.
The excellent tea culture of Korea began to go downhill in the wake of the 1592-1598 Imjin Patriotic War and completely disappeared during Japanese colonial rule over Korea.
The tea culture of the Korean nation entered an era of development under the care of the great leaders of the DPRK.
With an intention to produce tea domestically and supply it to the people, President Kim Il Sung planted tea tree saplings in an experimental plot at his residence and personally selected the right soil suited to acclimatizing them in the country and took detailed measures for conducting research to this end.
True to his noble intention, agricultural scientists chose several tea tree species suitable for the climate and natural features of the country and with stronger resistance to cold and a better yield and established corresponding cultivation and tea leaf processing technologies. Therefore, high quality tea started to be produced on the hills of Kangnyong County, South Hwanghae Province.
In order to make the benevolent care of the President associated with the tea go down in history, Chairman Kim Jong Il named it “Unjong” (benevolence) and saw to it that the plantation was built in a more splendid way.
The Unjong Tea Plantation located in Kangnyong County in the western coast of the country stretches hundreds of hectares. This area is known as a “famous tea-growing place” and “pollution-free tea production base” for it is well ventilated and has the sunshine and annual mean temperature appropriate for the growth of tea trees.
The plantation spreads out on an annual basis and works to improve manuring and cultivation. As tea drinking becomes increasingly popular, the fresh scent of tea can now be noticed not only at public catering facilities but also in many houses.
Unjong tea has rich contents of caffeine and tannin and many vitamins including vitamin C.
Several years ago, the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un took a measure to build a factory that produces tea drinks.
The Unjong Tea Drink Factory recently built in Namsa-ri, Rangnang District, Pyongyang, is a harmonious combination of a production building, subsidiary building and welfare service facilities.
According to Ryom Son Yong, manageress of the factory, now that the tea industry develops towards storing tea using the instant liquid storage method which preserves its traditional flavour, it is a worldwide trend to produce tea drinks and the consumption is constantly going up.
The production building is equipped with the processes for water purification, tea infusing and preparation and packaging and the whole production line is automated and streamlined on a high level.
“What is important in making a good tea is the quality of water used for infusing tea along with that of tea leaves,” said analyst Ri Ye Song. “The water in the area where the factory is located has long been known to have a good quality. However, in order to ensure the perfect water quality, our water purification process has multi-medium, ion-exchange and precision filters.”
The factory focuses efforts on improving product quality in accordance with the trend of development of tea drink production towards preserving natural and nutritive qualities and developing new varieties.
Especially, it increasingly relies on advanced technologies to solve problems arising in the production such as losses of nutritive and aromatic substances and formation of turbid liquid in the wake of refrigeration.
At present, the factory turns out green and black teas and Cholgwanum tea in 0.5L bottles.
The ready-made tea drinks are much sought after by local customers.
“We are now about to finish a research project for producing tea drinks made with gingko and persimmon leaves, insam and Schizandra chinensis which were popular among Koreans in the past,” said Jong Song Hui, a management official of the factory.