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 Theanin. Theanin is a kind of amino acid found in green tea that builds protein. The molecular structure (base arrangement) of Theanin 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.