Hey there, fellow tea drinkers! I hope things are going well for you and that you’ve been enjoying the start of the new year! Today’s post is another The Taste of Tea entry in which I’ll relay my notes from my tea-tasting journal entry for the Gyokuro Karigane loose leaf tea from High Garden Woodland Tea House and Sipping Apothecary. I got this tea a few months back while visiting High Garden’s shop in Nashville, TN. I’d never seen Karigane at any of the shops I’d visited before or on my typical online shops, so I was quite curious about this tea.

A quick bit about Gyokuro Karigane: Gyokuro Karigane is a type of Japanese green tea that is composed of the leaf veins and stems that are separated out in the production of high-quality Gyokuro tea [1,2]. Gyokuro Karigane can be prepared in the same manner as a normal Gyokuro tea [3]. Interestingly, the name Karigane is a special one given to Kukicha (“twig tea”) when it is derived from Gyokuro or high-quality Sencha teas [4,5,6]. Karigane translates to something like “the sound of geese” [5] or “cry of the wild goose” [6]. This title is meant to evoke an image of migrating geese that rest on pieces of driftwood while crossing the sea [5-7], poetic imagery thought to be derived from the driftwood-esque stems that rise up and float on the surface of the water when brewing the tea. Karigane is actually a region-specific moniker with origins in the Kyoto region of Japan [4,6,7]. Concurrently, the name Shiraore (“white snaps” [4] ) is used in the Kyushu region [7].


Type of Tea: Green Tea, loose leaf

Tasting Notes  The dry tea had a mix of greens. The stems were a lighter, dried grass, green with some yellow character. There were also some dark, almost a shiny onyx, green pieces; presumably, the leaf veins. Overall, the appearance was quite similar to other Kukicha I’ve seen, but I think the components were more uniform with longer stems and veins.

The scent coming off the dry was sweet and grassy (dried grass). After heating up the teapot I added the dry tea to the warmed pot to activate the tea. This made the scent stronger, but I still just got sweet grassy notes from it.

For this tea, I actually did two different preparations.

Preparation 1: In the first, I prepared the tea in the same way I might any other green tea (like a Sencha or normal Kukicha). I first boiled the water and then allowed it to cool for about 3.5-4 minutes. I used 2 tsp in about 160-170 mL of water and infused the tea for about 30-40 seconds.

After brewing the first infusion, the scent coming off of the liquor was still sweet and grassy, but the grassiness was more that of wet grass. There was also maybe a bit of roasted character that in the scent.  

The color of the liquor was a yellow-green, similar to other Japanese green teas, but with a little deeper green hue.

The tea liquor had a warm, grassy, lightly sweet flavor. It had a strong sweet finish that left a lasting sweet tingle on my tongue. The tea was lightly astringent, with no bitterness. There was also some umami character in the tea. Overall, it was a very nice grassy green tea similar to other Japanese green teas when brewed this way.

Preparation 2: In the second preparation, I brewed the tea in a manner suggested for a Gyokuro. I used 3 heaping tsp (~9-10 g) with 160-170 mL of water. In this case, I used the method of pouring the water into different vessels to cool it off; the rule of thumb is that the water cools down approximately 10 degrees C with each pour. I initially did 4 pours to cool the water down from boiling (100 degrees C) to approximately 60 degrees C. I then added the cooled water to the pot for brewing (making it about 50 degrees C). I let the tea infuse for 2 minutes.

The liquor had a deeper and darker green hue. The scent coming off of the liquor was still sweet and grassy, but with more umami character (it made my mouth water).

The flavor was quite different than in the first preparation. Although it still had a sweet grassiness, the tea had much more umami flavor with savory notes more reminiscent of spinach or seaweed. The tea was only a little astrigent, and it left a lingering sweetness in my mouth and on my tongue.

Quick Summary

  • Tea: Gyokuro Karigane, loose, green tea
  • Pick and Processing: stems and veins from Gyokuro, steamed
  • Season: Summer (2018)
  • Origin: Japan
  • Retailer: High Garden
  • Current Price: $9.50/1 oz
  • Texture: mildly astrigent
  • Flavor Notes: sweet, grassy, seaweed, umami
  • Finish: sweet

Final Thoughts I very much enjoyed this tea, under both sets of brewing parameters. The first way I prepared it had a lighter, more sweet and grassy character; the flavor was similar to a Sencha or normal Kukicha when brewed with similar parameters. Preparing the tea as Gyokuro lead to a much more savory, umami, character on top of the backdrop of sweet grassy flavor notes. In both cases, the tea left a pleasant, lingering, sweetness in the mouth.

Thanks for reading! As always, these are my tasting notes, and your experience will likely differ from mine. But regardless, I hope this post inspires you to get out there and to keep trying new teas. And I encourage you to make your own tasting notes as you do!

Do you have any tasting notes of your own that you’d like to share? Or maybe you have a tea you think I should try? Drop a line down in the comments to let me know.

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References

  1. “Shop Online – Gyokuro Karigane {Loose Leaf Tea}.” High Garden. Accessed January 13, 2019. https://highgardentea.com/shop/loose-leaf-teas/gyokuro-karigane-loose-leaf/.
  2. “Gyokuro Karigane Premium.” HIBIKI-AN. Accessed January 13, 2019. https://www.hibiki-an.com/product_info.php/products_id/409.
  3. “Asagiri Karigane Gyokuro.” O-Cha.com Japanese Green Tea & Matcha. Accessed January 13, 2019. https://www.o-cha.com/karigane-gyokuro.html.
  4. “Introduction to Japanese Tea.” Dobashien Tea. Accessed January 13, 2019. http://dobashientea.com/guide/.
  5. “Karigane.” YUNOMI. Accessed January 13, 2019. https://yunomius.staging.wpengine.com/glossary/karigane/.
  6. Obubu Interns. “What’s in a Name? Part II: Gyokuro & Kukicha.” Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms. March 24, 2017. Accessed January 13, 2019. https://obubutea.com/tea-names-part-2/.
  7. Sanson, Alexander. “Shiraore or Karigane?” T Ching. January 01, 2018. Accessed January 13, 2019. http://www.tching.com/2018/01/shiraore-or-karigane/.

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Blake A. Wilson, PhD

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