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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.

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...
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...

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