Gyokuro Karigane Premium is literally a daily staple for me, I constantly keep a pitcher of it cold-brewed in my refrigerater and it is my go-to drink with anything and at any time of day since when cold=brewed using only cold water there is very little caffienne which can really cause me troubles. I have tried all the Kariganes. (The LE Karigane Houjicha Super Premium still available is a superb blend, btw. I really stocked up on that because being able to enjoy a steaming hot, dark cup of rich Tea is incredibly relaxing & I recommend that to you if you enjoyed last year's Customer Appreciation Gift of Karigane Matcha Pinnacle because, unlike the regularly sold Karigane Houjicha, that LE Blend is not only made with higher grade stems but also includes some Karigane Matcha in it's delicious blend!) Karigane Gyokuro Premium is my favorite out of all the usually sold Kariganes, and as I said, I am NEVER without it! I have also incorporated it into making my Matcha a bit more "hearty" by using the Karigane Gyokuro Premium Tea instead of water to whisk up my Matcha, as well as using it to make frozen Tea-Cubes. Please see my seperate reviews under Gyokuro Karigane Premium, Gyokuro Karigane Superior (I prefer the Premium as it stands up better to multiple infusions, but both taste sweetly mild and deliciouse.)
Since I'm such a fan, year-round/daily, of Gyokuro Karigane Premium I knew I needed to fedinitely try this Gyokuro Karigane Blend. I got super excited to taste it when I read that it is not only made with the highest grade Pinnacle stems & veins but ALSO blended with high grade Kuradashi stems & veins!! I LOVE the Kuradashi Teas, they were so lovely this past Autumn after having been enriched in the granary for about 1.5yrs. The Kuradashi Gyokuro was so sweet with rich, more complex notes which were incredibly deliciouse!
I opened my pack and first compared the dry leaves to my Gyokuro Karigane Premium. Both looked about the same in overall coloring, ranging in shades of light to dark greens with a few brown shades present in both blends. Both Teas appeared ever so very slightly shimmery which made them look new and fresh, definitely nothing stale looking or really even very dry and/or "dead" even though these are "only" the stems. Both blends looked like little twigs but I did notice this LE Super Premium blend seemed shorter in length on general than the Premium blend.
The scent was incredibly delicious! So sweet and rich, I can really smell the Kuradashi rich notes of almost something like dark chocolate complexity as well as a sort of sweet "spicy-ness" reminding me of baked/warm cinnamon. A very wonderful scent! The Premium lacks the enriched sweetness, it smells lovely, very fresh, a "spring-like/green" aroma & notes.
Brewed First Impression: I REALLY Love This Tea! It's coming off to me as definitely something special and not "just the next grade" Gyokuro Karigane. (I am greatly appreciating these new blends HIBIKI-AN has been offering us recently since I regularly make my own personal blends, but they have access to things like Pinnacle Kuradashi Kariganes, which I do not, so these new LE Karigane blends I am Truly very much enjoying!)
I decided to brew this for the First Time using the higher water temperature recommended in order to enjoy a warm cup of Tea, but to also experience the Tea slowly as it cooled, since I learned with the Kuradashi Teas in Autumn as well as with the more recent Competition Grades of Teas offered here that new flavor/scent notes appear or become more prominent & appreciated as Teas cool/are tasted at different temperatures. I used a porcelain yunomi (the lovely & ever useful Whispering Water style) and a stainless steel mesh strainer. I really wanted to enjoy this higher grade from a porcelain yunomi, I definitely think drinking vessel material makes a difference (I later wanted to enjoy a larger cup of this Tea so I used the clay "HAKU" multi-cup, and indeed, the Tea did not feel as smooth and delicate as in the porcelain, but like something more substantial & "heartier.")
My first sips were great and definitely reminded me of the Kuradashi Gyokuro in taste notes. I first tasted a mouthwatering Gyokuro with it's subtle marine notes reminding me of HIBIKI-AN's very high grade Gyokuro Super Premium when brewed in my Hohin. Then I sensed the richness of Kuradashi coming through with a very gentle & sweet type of "spice," as noted in the scent above, like when baking with cinnamon. The Tea infusion is a light to translucent green.
More taste & scent notes appear/are able to be noticed as the Tea cools, which I find lovely. I REALLY appreciate & enjoy the Kuradashi enriched characteristics in this Karigane Blend! I smell the same sweetbread/cake-like/bakery aromas which are Truly delightful. Subtly sweet, sugar-sprinkled/candied floral sorts of notes enhance the Gyokuro marine-vegetal like base blending smoothly all together and as you savour these, incredibly subtle & gently delicious sweetly-spicy types of notes are sensed, topping it all off with a sort of whiff of baking cinnamon dusted bread, still warm from the oven, it's scent just hovering very pleasantly around. My empty yunomi, just as with the Kuradashi Gyokuro, smelled like a sweet, warm, yummy bakery and I could not wait to infuse my next cup!
I also prepared a pitcher of this in my cold-brew glass pitcher to try as a treat & something new on my daily cold-brewed Gyokuro Karigane Premium. This blend is more complex in flavors, but still really makes my mouth water & lingers for many minutes. I really crave this new Karigane Blend now & am looking forward to using it in my Matcha preparation as well as freezing Tea Cubes to add different aspects of flavor to other Teas I feel it will pair well with. I definitely suggest enjoying this Karigane Blend using different water temperatures, especially lower temperatures since I seem to be able to sense the majority of notes when it is not too hot or too cold. It is lovely to prepare a warm cup & slowly linger too, since the different notes will appear to you with Time as your Tea cools.
I loved the Kuradashi Gyokuro Teas & I love this Karigane Blend, it is superb! The Fact that the Tea produced by this Karigane (stems & veins of leaves) and considered a "by-product" is actually BETTER in every way then ANY other merchant's "highest/Imperial grade" & of course highest priced Tea leaves is just too funny to me & why I only ever even just think to purchase any and all my Japanese Green Tea from HIBIKI-AN! Thank you for sharing this Limited Edition Blend with us, it is an awesome Tea!