What's Kuradashi TeaWhat's Kuradashi Tea
At last Kuradashi Matcha is now available!
The Jidai Matsuri festival will be held at Kyoto city on October 22. For more information, please see above 'The Jidai Matsuri festival'.)
Before that our Kuradashi Matcha which has been stored for over a year was taken out from the granary. We have arranged two limited edition Kuradashi Matcha as described below. They are limited edition of 850 packages each ONLY AVAILABLE this autumn season. And Kuradashi Gyokuro and Sencha teas are still available.
Celebrate Kuradashi Teas and enjoy the remarkable enriched flavor and sweetness which can only be experienced once every year! We are certain that the fine enriched flavor and sweetness will captivate you. (Kuradashi Tea category)

Traditional Storage for the Ceremony of Kuradashi Matcha

Many years ago in Japan, tea leaves were stored in a special ceramic jar for Kuradashi Matcha like the below pictures at early summer around June or July after the Matcha harvest was completely finished. The tea leaves stored in the jar are known as Tencha: tea leaves before being ground into the fine powder of Matcha. The jar was carefully stored following a specific process in order for the tea leaves to enrich and age in good condition. The jar was opened at Kuchikiri no Gi, a tea ceremony in mid autumn. Above is a series of the ceremony of Kuradashi Matcha.

- First, Tencha tea leaves (*) for the highest grade Matcha like our Kuradashi Matcha Pinnacle or Super Premiumare packaged in a bag made with Washi paper.
- The package is put into the jar in which Tencha (*) for high grade Matcha is stored.
- Then the jar is filled with the Tencha (*) the high grade Matcha. And the mouth of the jar is sealed off with Washi paper and Japanese paste.
(*) Tencha: tea leaves before being ground into the fine powder of Matcha

In a small WASHI Japanese paper bag, as in the below picture, 20g (0.71oz) of the highest grade Matcha (for KOICHA / Thick Matcha) was packaged. Two or three of the WASHI Japanese paper bags package 20g of the highest grade Matcha and about 600g (21.26oz) of middle grade Matcha (for USUCHA / Thin Matcha) traditionally was placed in the jar. The amount was enough to serve KOICHA at approximately six tea ceremonies and to prepare 340 bowls of USUCHA. Certainly the tea masters cherished the jar of Kuradashi Matcha throughout the year. And great masters probably used up several jars of Kuradashi Matcha each year. (Our Kuradashi Matcha Pinnacle and Super Premium are KOICHA grade.)

Until around mid 19th century Japan, the production of Matcha was monopolized by seven tea merchants in Uji, Kyoto. So the above process of storing tea in this special jar was allowed to only the seven tea merchants.
(Kuradashi Matcha Pinnacle and Super Premium are now available.)










Efforts for Kuradashi Matcha

Aged and enriched Matcha known as Kuradashi Matcha is very special to all those who engage in tea ceremony. In the Japanese tea ceremony, even today, people celebrate aged Matcha in the ceremony called Kuchikiri no Gi every autumn. Traditionally, a special tea jar filled with Matcha was stored in a cool place like the top of a high mountain or in the ground after harvest until autumn. People would first enjoy that year's Matcha in the autumn after the Kuchikiri no Gi ceremony. And it was said that when the jar lid was opened in autumn, the marvelous fragrant aroma was savored. Indeed, when we open a package of our special Kuradashi Matcha, here at Hibiki-an, that has been aged for more than one year, the aroma is so amazing that there are no words to describe it.

To correctly age Kuradashi Matcha, there are many rules and special procedures one must follow.
Tea leaves should be stored not in powder form, but as Tencha. Tea leaves before they are ground into fine powder, but after stems and veins are removed, are known as Tencha. For Kuradashi Matcha, the Tencha is ground into powder by a stone mill called Ishiusu just before it is shipped to the customer. The reason for this is because when Matcha is ground into a fine powder, it deteriorates more easily than tea leaves such as Gyokuro and Sencha due to the fact that there is more surface area exposed to the air. If one tried to age Matcha powder for more than one year, as we do with Tencha for Kuradashi Matcha, it would not enrich but just deteriorate.

In order to age and enrich well, tea leaves need air, oxygen. The Tencha tea leaves are stored in open, unsealed foil bags in a special refrigerator that is somewhat cool, but not too cold. We keep a flow of fresh air constantly circulating through the refrigerator, allowing oxygen to mix with the tea. In this way, the tea leaves are allowed to breathe over time and enrich.

When Tencha is ground in the stone mill known as Ishiusu, the temperature is 60 to 70C (140 to 158F). The moderate heat deepens the mellow taste of the Kuradashi Matcha. The stone mill can grind only 70g (2.5oz) per hour. It takes a long time to grind the Tencha into Matcha, therefore some tea companies have several stone mills, which are very expensive and require a huge space. Though today's stone mill is turned by an electric motor, not by hand, most parts of today's stone mill are quite the same as the traditional stone mill of many years ago. Even today, the grooves of the great stones used in the mill which grind the tea are hand-carved by skilled craftsmen.
Today many manufactures tend to use power disintegrator machines to create Matcha, as it is much more efficient than traditional stone mills. Middle and low grade Matcha is often made using a power disintegrator machine. Only high and highest grade Matcha, such as our Kuradashi Matcha, is ground by traditional stone mill to deepen the mellow taste.

As above, to create the unique and subtle mellow flavor of Kuradashi Matcha, which enhances in the mouth and lingers for a while, a great deal of time and care are devoted not only to growing tea at the tea farm but also to the special process to turn fresh tea leaves into perfectly-aged Kuradashi Matcha.

Tea leaves of aged Tencha just before ground

Matcha grinding factory

Today's stone mill turned by an electric motor

Traditional stone mill turned by hand

Grinding into Matcha with the traditional stone mill

Even today stone mills are hand-carved by skilled craftsmen

Kuchikiri no Gi ceremony (Oct. 5)

Though today some Gyokuro lovers enjoy newly harvested Gyokuro, it is the traditional wisdom that Matcha and Gyokuro generally gain an enriched flavor and sweetness over time, and are best some months after harvest.

In the Japanese tea ceremony, even today people celebrate aged Matcha in the ceremony called Kuchikiri no Gi every autumn. Kuchikiri no Gi means the ceremony of opening a special jar of tea. Matcha and Gyokuro used to be placed in a tea jar. This tea jar was then sealed and stored in a cool place like the top of a high mountain or in the ground after harvest until autumn. People would first enjoy that year's Matcha and Gyokuro in the autumn after the Kuchikiri no Gi ceremony. And it was said that when the jar lid first opened in autumn, the marvelous fragrant smell was savored. It was said that the smell was so amazing that there were no words to describe it, and it had to be experienced firsthand.

Today the Kuchikiri no Gi ceremony is still held by the local tea industry and a school of Teaism at Kosho Temple in Uji on the first Sunday of October every year in order to honor the forerunners who contributed to developing Japanese tea culture.

The ceremony is thus followed:
- Water is gathered by ladle from the river at Uji Bridge in the way of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, kanpaku (powerful ruler) in Japan, who supported Rikyu Sen to indurate Teaism. He always used the water from Uji Bridge every day in order to prepare his Matcha.
- The water is solemnly and mindfully carried to Kosho Temple.
- The tea jar which was filled with tea leaves and sealed in the harvest season is opened according to traditional procedure.
- Matcha is prepared by the present head of the school of Teaism.
- A bowl of Matcha is offered before the tablet of the ancestors who contributed to developing Japanese tea culture.

Hauling water out from the Uji river at the Uji bridge



Carrying the water from the Uji river to Kohshoh temple


Offering the water before the tablet of the ancestors


Opening the tea jar


Grinding tencha into matcha

Prepared matcha by the present head of the school of Teaism

Offering the matcha before the tablet of the ancestors

Traditional stone mill turned by hand, and matcha just after ground. The matcha is quite beautiful and bright green color.


Kohshoh Temple

Coming of Autumn and Kuradashi Tea (Around Sep. 26)

The mornings and evenings are now getting cool here in Ujitawara, Kyoto. Summer flowers have finished blooming and autumn flowers are beginning to appear. The seven autumn wild flowers, loved by tea masters for generations, are blooming. Autumn fruit trees such as persimmon are starting to produce green fruits that will soon ripen to a beautiful orange color, a symbol of autumn.
Major insects at our tea farms have been changing too. Summer insects such as spider, ladybird, mantis, and so on, decreased sharply in number, while autumn insects such as red dragonfly and brown locust have made their appearance.

In Ujitawara, Kyoto, the low temperatures have been around 55F or 61F (13C or 16C) with high temperatures of 73F or 81F (23C or 27C) this past week. Though this year’s lingering summer heat was intense, recent cool mornings and nights suddenly make us feel a desire for Kuradashi tea.

Kuradashi teas, which have been enriched in wooden boxes in the granary for 1.5 years, since last May, are almost ready. Kuradashi teas have a deepened mellow and sweet taste and enhanced subtle noble aroma. We will begin to offer these limited edition teas within the next 10 days. Please wait and see! (We are now accepting pre-orders for Kuradashi Gyokuro and Kuradashi Sencha.)

Sky has changed to autumn tone. Silver grass is one of the seven autumn wild flowers.

Cosmea blossoms beautifully.

Spider lily is one of representative autumn flowers in Japanese country side.

Murmur of a brook makes felt coolness in autumn.

Ficus produces fruits

Locust changes color to brown in late summer or early autumn.

Thistle flower is a relic of summerspan>

There is a still green color locust in green weeds. It is a relic of summer too.

Wooden tea storage box, in which Kuradashi teas have been enriched

End of Summer and Kuradashi Teas (Around Aug. 29)

This summer, especially August, Japan experienced intense rain and sweltering heat. In some areas, the heavy rain that fell over a few days was equal in quantity to the typical average monthly rainfall for August. The August rainfall throughout Japan will likely be more than twice the average. Contrary to the original prediction that it would be a cool summer due to El Nino, the summer has been unusually hot.

Last summer, Japan experienced record breaking intense heat and some areas suffered from lack of water. Some years ago, the intense summer heat injured tea trees, even permanently damaging some trees. This year's generous amount of rain is a blessing for tea trees.

It typically starts getting cool in early morning and night in Ujitawara, Kyoto around August 15, after the OBON religious festival. This year, it started getting cool in the early morning around August 21 or 22. The lingering summer heat is expected to remain intense.

Autumn is on its way and so are our seasonal autumn Kuradashi teas. Following traditional methods, our Kuradashi teas have been enriched in wooden boxes in the granary for one and a half years, since last May, and will be ready in some more weeks. The deepened mellow and noble flavor of enriched Kuradashi Gyokuro and Kuradashi Matcha will be available in mid-autumn. Please wait and see!

To prevent damage from intense heat, straw, fallen leaves, or grasses are placed around the base of the tea trees.

Tea trees under the TANA canopy are shaded sparsely to avoid intense heat.

Rain is godsend for tea trees in sweltering hot summer

Shade-grown tea and "Honzu" the traditional reed and straw canopy

Tea leaves for Gyokuro and Matcha are grown in the shade for 20 to 30 days before harvest. There are two ways of creating shade for growing tea trees. One of them is "Tana" and the other is "Jikagise". With the "Jikagise" method, the tea plants are directly covered with a type of black fabric. "Tana" is not covering the tea tree directly but building a canopy-like structure at the height of about 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1m) covering the whole tea growing area as in the below picture. It requires skillful technique and great care, and is managed only in the Uji region. Excellent noble aroma and elegant sweetness are created by the "Tana" technique.

"Tana" is superior to "Jikagise" for a few reasons. "Tana" is much less of a burden for tea leaves and tea trees than "Jikagise" because "Jikagise" is placed directly over the tea leaves. "Tana" is a superior way to provide protection from the heat and intense sunlight. It is not completely understood why "Tana" produces such an excellent flavor in Gyokuro and Matcha, but tea producers in Japan are currently conducting research to find an answer to this question.
If you visit a tea farm in Japan and step under the "Tana" canopy, you are immediately aware that the air under the "Tana" is quite brisk and invigorating, which refreshes your mind and body. This is due to the "breath" of the tea leaves under the canopy.

"Honzu" is a very special way of building "Tana". It is the traditional way of diffusing sunlight from long ago, and these days it is very rare to see, even in the Uji region. In the "Honzu" method, tea farmers build a structure to provide shade to the tea trees using only reeds and straw. Old-style reeds and straw provide the ideal shade for tea trees. And it is said that the constituents exuded from the straw through the rainwater exercise good effects on the tea leaves.
However, it is not easy to build this structure of reeds and straw, to gather so much reeds and straw, and to manage to keep the "Honzu" in good condition throughout the growing season. For example, if a strong wind blew just after placement of the straw, the straw would be blown away and ruined. If it rains once after the placement of the straw, the rainwater firms the structure.
As above, "Honzu" requires skillful technique and much great care, so that only less than 10 farmers in all of Japan manage "Honzu" (only in Ogura and a few other areas in the Uji region). However, the shading with reeds and straw of "Honzu" provide tea leaves with the very ideal conditions.

Our Kuradashi Gyokuro Pinnacle and Kuradashi Matcha Pinnacle are grown in diffused sunlight under the reed and straw "Honzu" which provides an ideal growing environment for top-grade Gyokuro. If you are a Japanese Tea lover, would you once enjoy the excellent and subtle flavor grown with the traditional technique and much great care?

"Jikagise" shading from sunlight

"Tana" made with modern building materials

"Honzu" made with reeds and straw is a traditional style of "Tana"

Building "Honzu". Placing straws on the reed frame



What is Kuradashi Tea?

Do you know Kuradashi Tea? In contrast to Sencha, which is enjoyed for its refreshing aroma immediately after harvest, Gyokuro and Matcha gain an enriched flavor and deep noble aroma and sweetness over time, and therefore are best some months after harvest. A long time ago, people celebrated aged Gyokuro and Matcha in autumn, just as Shincha is celebrated in spring. It was called Kuradashi tea meaning tea taken out from the granary.

Today's Japanese tea lovers favor both fresh Gyokuro and Matcha, and enriched Kuradashi Gyokuro and Matcha. It just depends on each person's individual taste and preference to know which kind will be their favorite. However, it is more and more difficult to find real enriched Kuradashi Tea even in Japan. It is not easy to enrich and sweeten Gyokuro and Matcha. If one doesn't keep a close watch over their Kuradashi Tea, it will easily deteriorate. Like a fine wine, aged tea can easily pass from a state of being deliciously enriched to a state of being deteriorated.
Besides, all Gyokuro and Matcha do not gain an enriched flavor but only specific kinds of Gyokuro and Matcha. It depends on some factors, such as the breed of tea leaves, how the sunlight is shaded, management of fertilizer and nutrients, the processing procedure, and so on.
Therefore many wholesalers and retailers these days are not willing to accept risks in order to create Kuradashi Tea.
Since we at Hibiki-an, understand the traditional way of aging Kuradashi Tea properly, we are happy to be able to provide you with Kuradashi Gyokuro and Matcha. We would like Japanese tea lovers around the world to be able to experience the remarkable and noble enriched and sweetened flavor and aroma of true Kuradashi Gyokuro and Matcha.

Kuradashi Gyokuro and Matcha are different from ordinary Gyokuro and Matcha in aroma and flavor, so it may be enjoyable for you to compare this tea with regular Gyokuro and Matcha. The superb enriched and sweetened flavor and aroma of this special tea lingers in the mouth for a while. The aroma is full, but not too strong. The flavor is richer and subtle. The taste is both mellow and enhanced.

Kuradashi Gyokuro and Matcha can best be described in the same way a fine wine is described and enjoyed by connoisseurs. Like Pinot Noir red wine, Kuradashi Gyokuro and Matcha are amazingly full flavored with hints of woody spices, sweet fruits, and nuts, as well as oak, earth, leaves, and grass. It is difficult to describe this remarkably delicious tea and just must be experienced firsthand!

Harvest in May




Enriched by the traditional way




Tasting





A Tip to Enjoy Kuradashi Teas

Kuradashi Teas are enriched in the granary like fine wine. The superb enriched and sweetened flavor and aroma lingers in the mouth for a while.
Usually Kuradashi tea is prepared the same way as regular Gyokuro, Sencha, and Matcha. Another way to enjoy Kuradashi tea is to prepare it so that it has a softer, mellower taste. In this case, we recommend you prepare Kuradashi tea with a little lower temperature water.

1. Brewing Process:

- Kuradashi Gyokuro
Kuradashi Gyokuro is brewed using the same method as regular Gyokuro: 140-158F (60-70C) water for 1 1/2 to 2 min. For a softer, mellower flavor, use lower temperature water: 131F (55C) for 2 to 2 1/2 min.
(For 2 cups) Tea leaves: 1 1/2 tablespoons (7 - 8g), Water amount: 200ml (7.04fl oz)

- Kuradashi Sencha
Kuradashi Sencha is brewed using the same method as regular Sencha: 176F (80C) water for 1 min. For a softer, mellower flavor, use lower temperature water: 167F (75C) for 1 1/2 min.
(For 2 cups) Tea leaves: 1 1/2 tablespoons (7 - 8g), Water amount: 200ml (7.04fl oz)

- Kuradashi Matcha
Kuradashi Matcha is prepared using 176F (80C) temperature water, the same as regular Matcha. For a softer, mellower flavor, use lower temperature water: 158F (70C).
(For a bowl of Matcha) Matcha: 2 Chashaku or 1 teaspoon, Water amount: 70ml (2.46fl oz)

2. Brewing Process for Deeper Flavor:

- Kuradashi Gyokuro, Kuradashi Sencha, and Kuradashi Matcha
Add an additional 25 - 30% tea leaves and follow the brewing temperatures and times listed above for "softer, mellower flavor." In this case, you can brew Kuradashi Gyokuro and Sencha 4 times instead of 3 times in regular brewing.

You can enjoy an amazing deep and mellow flavor by following this special method. It is nearly impossible to over-brew Kuradashi Tea (causing a bitter taste) because it's enriched for 1.5 years. In contrast, regular teas can become bitter if brewed this way.
Would you try this special brewing process? You will certainly enjoy the complex and versatile Kuradashi Tea flavor.

Kuradashi Tea : Now Available!

At last Kuradashi Matcha is now available!
The Jidai Matsuri festival was held at Kyoto city on October 22. For more information, please see above 'The Jidai Matsuri festival'.)
Our Kuradashi Matcha which has been stored for over a year was taken out from the granary. We have arranged four limited edition Kuradashi Matcha as described below. They are limited edition of 850 packages each ONLY AVAILABLE this autumn season. And Kuradashi Gyokuro and Sencha teas are still available.
Celebrate Kuradashi Teas and enjoy the remarkable enriched flavor and sweetness which can only be experienced once every year! We are certain that the fine enriched flavor and sweetness will captivate you.

Kuradashi Gyokuro and Sencha

[Limited] Kuradashi Gyokuro Super Premium (40g/1.41oz): US$24.00 (Now Available)
The superb enriched and sweetened flavor and aroma lingers in the mouth for a while. The aroma is full, but not too strong. The flavor is rich and subtle. The taste is both mellow and enhanced...
[Limited] Kuradashi Gyokuro Premium (80g/2.82oz): US$27.00 (Now Available)
All Gyokuro does not gain an enriched flavor but only specific kinds of Gyokuro. We have enriched this highest grade of trimmed Gyokuro for one and a half years...
[Limited] Kuradashi Gyokuro Pinnacle (40g/1.41oz): US$35.00 (Now Available)
Tea leaves for this special tea grow in the Ogura area in the Uji region, which is known as one of the foremost production centers of the highest grade of enriched Gyokuro...
[Limited] Kuradashi Sencha (80g/2.82oz): US$24.00 (Now Available)
Long time ago the quality and good conditioned Sencha in Autumn season must have been similar in taste and aroma to this fine Kuradashi Sencha. And that time, only few people could enjoy the excellent flavour...

Kuradashi Matcha

[Limited] Kuradashi Matcha Super Premium (40g/1.41oz): US$34.00 (Now Available)
For this Kuradashi Matcha Super Premium, tea leaves just after harvest, are steamed and dried in a special fire pit. The smooth and mellow taste is uniquely brought out by the special drying process...
[Limited] Kuradashi Matcha Super Premium Refill (120g/4.23oz): US$85.00 (Now Available)
This Kuradashi Matcha Super Premium Refill package is an excellent value. The price is actually discounted 17%. For this Kuradashi Matcha, tea leaves just after harvest, are steamed and dried in a special fire pit. The smooth and mellow taste is uniquely brought out by the special drying process...
[Limited] Kuradashi Matcha Pinnacle (30g/1.06oz): US$40.00 (Now Available)
The traditional canopy used to shade tea plants from sunlight known as "Honzu" is unique and different from others. They are also important factors in creating the noble flavor and sweetness of the highest grade enriched Matcha...
[Limited] Kuradashi Matcha Pinnacle Refill (120g/4.23oz): US$128.00 (Now Available)
This Kuradashi Matcha Premium Refill package is an excellent value. The price is actually discounted 21%. The traditional canopy used to shade tea plants from sunlight known as "Honzu" is unique and different from others. They are also important factors in creating the noble flavor and sweetness of the highest grade enriched Matcha...