This Month's Tea - KariganeThis Month's Tea - Karigane

What is Karigane?

We would like you to rediscover the value of our Karigane teas for monthly recommendation.

Karigane is made from the stems of Gyokuro and high grade Sencha. Tea leaves, stems, and powder are sorted during the finishing process. The stems are called Karigane, and only account for about 5 to 10% of all tea leaves. The stems of middle or low grade Sencha are not called Karigane.

Karigane stems are rich in Teanin. Teanin is a kind of amino acid found in green tea that builds protein. The molecular structure (base arrangement) of Teanin is similar to Glutamic Acid which is known for having a sweet and flavorful taste and working to relax the brain and body.

Karigane is less expensive than tea leaves because it is a by-product. It is sorted from high grade tea leaves, and therefore has a better flavor than tea leaves of a similarly low price. In Japan some Gyokuro lovers tend to search for Gyokuro Karigane sorted from much higher grade Gyokuro. Karigane lovers are usually repeat customers - once they try Karigane they want to drink it all the time because it has such a great flavor and is an excellent value.

Karigane is sometimes difficult to find. This is because it's only made from top quality tea leaves. Since Karigane only makes up 10% of these top grade leaves, there is only a tiny amount of Karigane produced each year. So many green tea lovers in Japan search far and wide for Karigane. Fortunately Hibiki-an is able to have a steady supply of Karigane because we grow and sell only the highest grade tea leaves.

Karigane is made from the stems of Gyokuro and high grade Sencha

Processing Scene

Tea color of each Karigane item

Tea leaves of Gyokuro Karigane

Tea leaves of Sencha Karigane

Tea leaves of Houjicha Karigane

Process of Sorting Karigane

There are two methods to sort stems and veins from tea leaves using modern machines: (1) sorting by static electricity and (2) sorting by color sensor. The processing steps are different for each method. Stems and veins take a charge easily, while tea leaves do not, because stems and veins have a higher water content than leaves, and thus can be processed by static electricity sorting. Stems and veins are white in color, and tea leaves are dark green in color, and thus can be processed by color sensor sorting. Static electricity sorting is rough though high productivity, so a fair quantity of tea leaves are mixed in with the stems and veins. Then they are sorted more precisely by color sensor sorting.

Until around 1940 when modern sorting machines were invented, sorting had been done by CHA YORI SAN, which means "woman sorting tea." At harvest time, women farmers picked tea leaves in the tea fields, and after harvest they worked sorting stems and veins at the factory. Modern machines can sort 100kg of tea leaves per hour. In contrast, 5 to 10kg of tea leaves were sorted per hour by one person in that era.

In a recent conversation with an elderly tea merchant, it was said that some decades ago, Karigane was weaker in flavor than today's Karigane. Perhaps Karigane sorted by women farmers did not contain many tea leaves, but was composed just with stems and veins. Though the productivity of modern sorting machines is much higher, they may not be superior in accuracy to the skilled hands of CHA YORI SAN.

We introduce a modern processing machine in the following pictures.

Whole sorting machine. This machine sorts stems and veins into 3 kinds at 2 steps by color sensor.

At this step, the color sensor discriminates stems and veins and tea leaves by color difference, then each stem or vein is flicked by air bursting vigorously from the air nozzle. It is done for just 1 second as the tea leaves are sliding down at a slant.

Air, bursting vigorously from the nozzle, flicks stems and veins.

Stems and veins flicked by air flow into sorting bins.

Tea leaves are sorted once again at the next step.

Until some decades ago, women farmers had sorted tea leaves after hand-picking during the harvest season.

Special Karigane Tea

Karigane is an excellent value because it is a by-product of green tea production. Karigane is made from the stems and veins of high quality tea leaves.
Stems and veins for Gyokuro Super Premium are sorted from the highest quality Gyokuro shaded from sunlight under the traditional "Honzu" canopy structure made with reeds and straw.
Even in Kyoto, known around the world as the center of Japanese green tea culture and production, it is difficult to find top grade Gyokuro Karigane. During tea production, green tea leaf stems (which make up 5 to 10% of the harvested tea) are separated from the tea leaves. These green tea stems are used to make Karigane. Only small quantities of our top grade Gyokuro (such as our Pinnacle grade Gyokuro) is grown each year. So we can produce only a limited amount of Gyokuro Karigane Super Premium.
Fortunately we are able to offer Gyokuro Karigane Super Premium, but only as a limited edition of 450 packages and available only in early spring season..

Stems and veins for Gyokuro Super Premium are sorted from the highest quality Gyokuro shaded from sunlight under the traditional "Honzu" canopy structure made with reeds and straw.

Picked by skilled hands

Tea leaves just after picked

One of several processing steps

The brewed infusion color of Gyokuro Karigane Super Premium is the same as Kuradashi Gyokuro Pinnacle. The aroma is quite elegant and gentle.

Selected stems and veins from Gyokuro Pinnacle and Kuradashi Gyokuro Pinnacle.
Stems and veins for Gyokuro Super Premium are sorted from the highest quality Gyokuro shaded from sunlight under the traditional "Honzu" canopy structure made with reeds and straw.
Picked fresh tea leaves are processed just a few hours after harvest. All processing machines are traditional style, and tea leaves are processed with great care in the traditional way.
They are finished and become Aracha just a few hours later.

Karigane Teas: Now Available!

[Limited] Gyokuro Karigane Super Premium (40g/1.41oz): US$18.00 (Now Available)
Limited edition of 450 packages available only in early spring this year.
Gyokuro Karigane Super Premium is an excellent value. Because it is made from the stems and veins of the only highest-quality Gyokuro, such as Gyokuro Pinnacle and Kuradashi Gyokuro Pinnacle, you can have the quality of Premium for a fraction of the cost...
Gyokuro Karigane Premium (100g/3.53oz): US$22.00
Gyokuro Karigane Premium which is made from the stems of highest grade Gyokuro is very valuable and precious. You can enjoy the excellent flavor of high grade Gyokuro at an affordable price...
Gyokuro Karigane Superior (200g/7.06oz): US$29.00
Gyokuro Karigane Superior which is made from the stems of high grade Gyokuro is valuable and precious. The stems are called Karigane, and only account for about 5 to 10% of all tea leaves...
Sencha Karigane (200g/7.06oz): US$23.00
Sencha Karigane Premium which is made from the stems of high grade Sencha is valuable and precious. Karigane contains much Theanine which is the source of its sweet and mellow taste...
Houjicha Karigane (200g/7.06oz): US$19.00
Houjicha Karigane is made from the stems of high grade tea leaves and roasted in the same way as standard Houjicha. The flavor is deeply sweet and roasted, which is quite unique among Japanese tea...
[Limited] Houjicha Karigane Super Premium (100g/3.53oz): US$14.00 (Now Available)
The stems contained in this tea are usually used for Sencha Karigane, not Houjicha Karigane. Stems from the highest grade Matcha are added in order to create the unique noble aroma...
Karigane Tea Tasting Set (each 100g/3.53oz x 3): US$35.50
Karigane is made from the stems of Gyokuro and high grade Sencha. We combined three valuable Karigane items: Gyokuro Karigane Superior, Sencha Karigane, and Houjicha Karigane...

Customer Reviews of Karigane Teas

[Limited] Gyokuro Karigane Super Premium
I really LOVE the Gyokuro Kariganes and this 1 is definitely the best. Last year around this Time was my first Time trying it and I knew if it returned this year I'd be sure to get enough to last longer throughout the rest of the year because Gyokuro Karigane is something that is a daily staple for me. I always have the glass teapot sold here (w the green strainer and top) stocked in my refrigerator filled w cold-brewed Gyokuro Karigane Tea. The cold-brew method reduces caffiene alot, especially in the Kariganes which have less to begin with, and I really can appreciate that since I have insomnia issues but do not ever want to go without my Teas!
This Super Premium grade is so sweet yet delicate with a smooth yet still full mouthfeel. Brewed alone it is wonderful but I also will add a bit to the lower next grade down to extend the multiple brewings or add a bit more flavor notes because this contains Enriched Kuradashi Autumn stems and veins in the blend so it is a bit less "grassy" than the other 2 grades, more sweetly "rich."
I really like to use Teas like this in any and all new ways I can think of and yesterday I decided to use this brewed Tea instead of plain water in my oatmeal, flax, & quinoa (sp?) mix. It turned out delicately sweet and I did not even add any honey like I sometimes do. Add less or more depending on how thin or thick you enjoy your oatmeal, etc. I've also done this with rice, using the next grade down of the Gyokuro Karigane, once I added a bit of Super Premium Matcha to that blend also then made the rice with it. Also, using Sencha Karigane gives the rice a different yet delicately flavored aroma and flavor while using the Houjicha Karigane gives your rice a nice and warm, smoky, delicately roasted/nutty aroma and flavor. I love doing this because of the extra health benefits that are boosted by the Teas being used to cook the rice instead of just plain water.
Anyway, I LOVE this Tea and stocked up this Time around because I can't be without it's refreshment and deliciousness, not to mention how sweet it is with absolutely nothing added... it's just PERFECT for drinking all the Time!
--- Female, United States

A very rich and mellow flavor, I loved it's slightly earthy taste, excellent!
--- Female, United States

The flavour is exactly as described on the website. Sweet, aromatic and of Hibiki's teas I've tried so far, this is by far the nicest. A true sipping tea which when brewed as directed, provides a wonderful and refreshing taste.
--- Male, Canada

Tryed this tee today.
Smell and taste of this Gyokuru is simply amazing.
Only downside is the price, but well worth it.
-- Male, Slovenia

Gyokuro Karigane Premium
The more I drank this tea, the more I came to understand and appreciate it. At first it seemed simple and clean. Over time it became more and more subtle. I loved it cold-brewed, as well as hot. Fairly slight differences in temperature or the amount of tea turned out to make a big difference in the resulting tea. I feel that I learned a lot from this tea. And it showed me that there is still a lot for me yet to learn. Over the summer, I made some cold Gyokuro Karigane Premium for a hot and tired singer before she had to perform for hundreds of people, and the beautiful color and taste restored her mood and voice. I love this tea, and can't wait to order it again.
--- Female, United States

A few years ago a friend returning from Kyoto brought me some Gyokuro Karigane as a gift. I didn't know about it at all, and loved its particular taste. It is while browsing to find out how to get more of this that I encountered Hibiki-Tea, and started ordering Gyokuro Karigane Premium from them. I also love Gyokuro as well as varied Sencha, but must admit to have become one of these "repeat" Karigane customers mentioned in Hibiki's description of the tea. While partaking of the same qualities as Gyokuro, Gyokuro Karigane possesses unique qualities: first, especially in its first brewing, and especially at low temperature, an incredibly smooth liquor, and a hint of a taste of marshmallow flower; the second brewing is a repeat; a third one will produce a quite different taste, closer to some Chinese green teas such as Huang Shan teas. Providing a very subtle and varied experience, Hibiki's Gyokuro Karigane Premium tea also provides a quiet sustained energy which makes it ideal in the morning and a good intellectual work companion. It has become a mostly daily ritual -- and a great pleasure.
--- Male, France

Gyokuro Karigane Superior
I really like this tea! It is my very first taste of karigane tea and I enjoy it very much. Very good gyokuro taste but it is more gentle on my sensitive stomach than regular gyokuro. I love this tea hot, but it is also wonderful cold brewed and when used in creating unique tea combinations. I have mixed this 50/50 with sencha fukamushi and it makes a really refreshing iced tea. I will be making this my daily tea and look forward to trying other kariganes. Thank you Hibiki-an!
--- Female, United States

I loved it. It is something any Gyokuro fan should try. It is excellent and interesting.
--- Male, Republic of Korea

Sencha Karigane
Hibiki-an karigane sencha is my favorite. It is now my daily tea. I love their gyokuro and regular sencha, but really this is my all-time favorite. I live in the US but travelled to Japan in 2011 and got hooked on sencha then. Have not looked back (from being a 3 cup-a-day PG tips w/milk person!). Now I drink almost exclusively [except when I am waiting for an order] all of my Japanese tea from Hibiki-an. Hojicha in the evening and to cool down in the summer. Sencha in the morning and throughout the day, and genmaicha also in the afternoon and evening. It gets expensive, but because this is such high-quality tea, I steep up to 4 or 5 times, and am careful to use only what I can drink. A great--and healthful--indulgence, daily. Waiting now for konacha...
--- Female, United States

It's official - I'm in love with this tea! If a tea could be cute, this is it. The Gyokuro stems are such a bright and cheerful lime yellow/green. It's a perfect blend with a large portion of the sweet stems and just enough sencha leaves to make this the most curiously addictive green tea. I used two heaping spoons, 10 g and 75° water with a total steeping time of 1 min 45 seconds including the pouring.
For some weird reason, my first whiff inside the bag reminded me of a concert hall (!) and I know why...when I poured the water on the leaves in my glass kyusu, I watched the sticks float horizontally upwards little by little as if musical instruments were starting to play. The stems literally stand at attention!
This is a very CREAMY, round tea with the ultimate balance of sweetness and mellow tanginess (or bitterness if you want to call it that). The dry mouthfeel is superb and makes you smack your lips in contemplation of all the characteristics of this yummy tea.
--- Female, United Kingdom

Houjicha Karigane
i was looking for this specific tea for a while after my local tea shop stopped selling it. roasted twig tea is the only tea i truly enjoy because of it's wonderful aroma and nice taste. i drink it in summer instead of coffee because of the light texture it has
--- Female, Israel

All you houjicha lovers out there - I can recommend you this Houjicha Karigane with confidence! Actually I love this tea so much that I can't go back even to the very flavourful Houjicha of Hibiki-An.
Although I'm a gyokuro lover, this is my favourite tea in cold autumn and winter evenings. It produces a fascinating liquor even when very hot water is used. It is quite hard to make a bad cup of tea even on those days one is tired and adjusting the water temperature adequately slips out of the mind. A very hearty tea, it is very forgiving (even when I forgot to take out the drainer upon receiving a phone call and the tea steeped for 4-5 mins, the taste was still not bitter or astringent). Delicious and nutty in flavour as it is a houjicha variety, but this tea is sweeter, mellower, and more complex. It is not overwhelmingly roasty. Plus, it has a very calming and centering effect after being consumed.
I also have to add that it is a favourite among my guests as some of them are careful not to drink caffeinated teas in the evening. As mentioned in the description, it is a very low caffeine tea, and, who doesn't like a mellow hot tea on a cold night to accompany a nice chat or a good book? This tea received compliments over and over again from my guests.
Thank you Hibiki-An for providing such high quality teas!
--- Female, Canada