Ten years ago, before I went to Korea, something important happened in my life, although I did not recognize it then. I met three Koreans, who were introduced by a friend. My friend asked me to be their guide since they could not speak Chinese. One of them was a Korean professor, another was a tea businessman, and the third was a monk. What was amazing was that these non-Chinese-speaking Koreans were being guided by a Chinese who could not speak Korean, yet the situation was quite harmonious. We communicated through written Chinese. Although they could not speak Chinese, they had a good background in written Chinese and Chinese literature. As a result, we became friends and they invited me to Korea. They said they would like to support me, and so it happened.
In Korea, I had the chance to learn about tea. Although I drank tea almost every day, I knew nothing about tea and tea culture before I went to Korea. However, these three Korean friends all liked tea very much. They introduced me to other tea drinkers and that led me to a part-time job teaching them Chinese. As a result, they learned Chinese from me, and I gained a basic knowledge of tea from them.
Most people complain about how hard life can be overseas. I have to say I had a wonderful life when I was in Korea. I attribute it to tea and my Korean tea friends, because it is true there is no bad person if he / she is a tea person. Plus, Koreans are very respectful to their teachers, although most of my students were much older than me. They helped me through a difficult period.
I still remember my students taking me to the hospital when I was sick. Since I had no insurance for medical care, they paid for me. One student sent me tonics for one month. Another student sent me Dongfang Meiren (the Beauty of Eastern) tea and basic tea sets and suggested that I drink it instead of coffee. It is true that my sickness might have been caused by drinking too much coffee. As a graduate program student, I sometimes had to study overnight and coffee really helped at that time. The Dongfang Meiren brought me to the tea world. That was the first time I formally met tea. Based on my experience, it is true that drinking more tea and less coffee contributes to health. I guess that is one of the reasons I began to like tea.
Other tea people helped me in other ways. A friend who owns a tea house in Insadong always asked me help him with translation jobs, despite the fact that he spoke and wrote good Chinese. Another tea friend, who is a Chinese-Korean, sometimes asked me to do part-time jobs, such as taking a Chinese businessman to the airport or leading a Chinese group. I knew that their purpose was to help me economically because they knew studying overseas was costly.
Overall, the tea people I met in Korea developed in me a love of tea and the desire to be a tea person too.