This Month's Tea - Karigane

This Month's Tea - Karigane

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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

Karigane Teas: Now Available! shopping category

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! shopping category

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...

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...