What's Kuradashi Tea
- Maturation of Kuradashi Tea
- Traditional Processing Method for Kuradashi Gyokuro
- Coming of Autumn and Kuradashi Tea (Around Sep. 22)
- End of Summer and Kuradashi Teas (Around Aug. 25)
- "Honzu" the traditional reed and straw canopy
- What is Kuradashi Tea?
- Tips to Enjoy Kuradashi Teas
- Kuradashi Tea Now Available!
Maturation of Kuradashi Tea
It has been said since olden days that fine Gyokuro and Matcha gain an enriched flavor and deep noble aroma and sweetness over time, and so are best some months and up to two years after harvest. Not all green tea is suitable for this process, and only certain types of high-quality Uji tea produce the finest Kuradashi Gyokuro.
From a scientific standpoint, Japanese tea does not age in the same way as fine wine, and of course it does not become alcoholic. However, it is an indisputable fact that certain Japanese tea, specific breeds of high-quality Uji tea, gain an enriched flavor by a special traditional aging process.
We would like to explain more about Kuradashi Gyokuro. What flavor is created? What type of Japanese tea gains the flavor? And what is the aging procedure?
The features of green tea enriched and aged in good condition are:
- Deepened and gained smoothness and sweetness of flavor.
- Created and gained subtle enriched and noble aroma.
- Softened and rounded refreshing aroma, in contrast to Shincha's usual brisk and refreshing aroma.
All tea does not gain the enriched flavor. Only tea leaves which meet the following criteria can possibly gain an enriched flavor:
- Fresh, high-quality, and smooth-tasting tea leaves harvested at well-managed tea farms.
- Tea grown carefully in the shade by "Tana" (not "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.
- At processing, the tea must not be heavily steamed. However, farmers tend to steam tea leaves for Gyokuro more heavily to produce tea with a deep, smooth taste and vivid green color. Such Gyokuro can not be aged well.
Tea leaves meeting the above criteria are just a small portion of the highest quality tea leaves harvested in Uji, Kyoto. Tea leaves that do not meet these criteria just deteriorate when aged.
However, even with the correct type of tea leaves, it is not an easy task to properly age green tea.
Tea leaves are usually packaged in aluminum foil bags filled with nitrogen in order to keep fresh flavor through the year. And they are stored in a special refrigerator.
To create Kuradashi Gyokuro, the green tea must be allowed to "breathe". Over a period of time, the oxygen has an effect on the green tea which creates the enriched flavor. If the tea is aged by an inappropriate procedure or inappropriate type tea is aged, it will simply deteriorate.
In order to age and enrich well, tea leaves need air, oxygen. Though we put tea leaves in a foil bag, we don't seal the bag. The tea is carefully placed in a traditional wooden box (like below picture) in the special refrigerator. To enrich, the temperature in the refrigerator also should not be too cold. The air circulates in the bag, wooden box, and the refrigerator, allowing a flow of oxygen to constantly mix with the tea. In this way, the tea leaves are allowed to breathe over time.
However, because the bag is not sealed, and the temperature in the refrigerator is not so cold, tea leaves can easily deteriorate by absorbing moisture or odor. Therefore we always pay the closest attention to the tea leaves to ensure their perfection.
As above, it is not easy to enrich Gyokuro well, so many wholesalers and retailers these days are not willing to accept risks in order to enrich Gyokuro. However, the enriched flavor and subtle noble aroma and sweetness of Kuradashi Gyokuro are more than someone can dream. Would you enjoy it once?
Shaded from sunlight by way of 'Tana' before harvest
Shaded from sunlight by way of 'Jikagise' before harvest
Gyokuro Processing factory using very traditional machines
Tea leaves processed for Kuradashi Gyokuro by traditional way. Traditional processing way amazingly takes a lot of time.
Just one person operate modern processing facilities which capacity is about four times as large as this traditional facilities. In contrast that, five to seven persons work in the traditional factory which capacity is small.
Kuradashi teas put in wooden box are enriched in the special cold storage chamber.
Traditional Processing Method for Kuradashi Gyokuro
Our Kuradashi Gyokuro (mainly Pinnacle and Super Premium) is processed at an extremely traditional facility with great care and consideration.
Our hand-picked fresh tea leaves are processed with a small capacity processing machine. The processing capacity is 35kg (15.9lb) of raw, fresh tea leaves per batch, which is much less than the typical processing capacity today. The typical processing capacity is 60kg (27.2lb), 120kg (54.4lb) or more. The processed tea leaves become roughly one-fifth of the weight of the original fresh tea leaves. The small capacity machine can produce just 7kg (3.2lb) or less per batch in 4 hours. Using such a small capacity machine, farmers can process the tea in a careful and conscientious manner.
An Aracha processing facility is usually run by one person. But, our hand-picked fresh tea leaves are processed at a facility run by a skilled team. The small capacity processing machine is operated by three people, while two others sort the tea leaves by hand.
Much time and effort are invested in processing the Aracha tea leaves for our Kuradashi Gyokuro. It is often said that Gyokuro tea leaves are like Diamonds.
Tea leaves are carried immediately after harvest and are steamed.
Steaming time and intensity are adjusted according to the condition of the tea leaves.
After being steamed, the tea leaves turn a beautiful green color.
Primary rolling and drying.
Crumple the tea leaves further to reduce water content.
The tea leaves are further dried and shaped.
The well-used machines have seen the history of tea.
Place in a dryer to further reduce the water content.
There is a nice aroma of tea leaves in the air.
Tea leaves are sorted through a sieve.
Finally, tea leaves are carefully sorted by hand.
Tools that have been carefully used for a long time.
Coming of Autumn and Kuradashi Tea (Around Sep. 22)
The mornings and evenings are now getting cool here in Ujitawara, Kyoto. Curious to say, the first hints of autumn coolness indeed make the flavor and warmth of hot tea even more inviting and desirable.
This year the lingering summer heat is the most severe in the past 5 years. For example, even the morning and evening temperatures are still a little higher than average this year. In contrast, we have received plenty of rainfall over the summer, especially during the TSUYU rainy season. Therefore, the condition of the tea trees is relatively good, and there is now hardly any HAYAKE leaf scald damage at our tea farms. We farmers expect a heavy crop of tea next spring.
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 66F or 72F (19C or 22C) with high temperatures of 82F or 92F (28C or 33C) this past week. Though this year's lingering summer heat has been 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 part of autumn seven flowers which have been loved by tea masters for generations.
Murmur of a brook makes felt coolness in autumn.
Summer flowers are disappearing. When a gentle breeze blows, cotton caps dance in the air spectacularly.
Cobwebs form after rain. Insects are violently struggling in the cobweb.
As soon as coming Autumn, many kinds of insects appear.
Hearing autumn insects like cricket, bell bugs, and so on chirping.
The leaves will start coloring in the autumn red and gold soon.
A kind of chrysanthemum near by our tea farm.
Cluster amaryllis, which are usually in peak equinoctial week, have not appeared yet this year. It may express this year's intense lingering heart.
Kuradashi teas have been enriched for 1.5 years.
End of Summer and Kuradashi Teas (Around Aug. 25)
This year's TSUYU rainy season started on May 29 in Kyoto, which was 8 days earlier than usual and the second earliest on the record. And it ended around July 20, which was the same as usual.
In August, the summer heat was intense all over Japan. In a few areas, the temperature reached more than 40C (104F) and broke the record for the highest temperature. Even Kyoto reached above 38C (100F).
Fortunately, the amount of rainfall from June to August has been basically and evenly enough and a little more than usual in total. But only some areas received rain in the first half of August. As a result, some tea trees have HAYAKE leaf scorch. However, most of the trees have only minor damage, not critical damage.
And KANZAWA HADANI (a kind of tick) appeared much more than usual in Kyoto this summer. The farmers took care of them, too. Overall, this summer was not too severe for tea trees. The conditions were actually rather good for tea trees, though tea trees are innately strong against bad weather conditions.
The weather typically starts getting cooler in the early morning and at night in Ujitawara, Kyoto around August 15, after the OBON religious festival. This year, it started getting cool in the early morning around August 19 or 20. The weather forecast expects the lingering summer heat to remain intense, and the rainfall will fortunately be a little more than usual.
Autumn is going to be on its way soon 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 a few 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!
Tea trees under the TANA canopy are shaded sparsely to avoid intense heat.
These tea leaves are unfortunately partially damaged by the intense heat. Yet, new sprouts will grow vigorously, even on these tea trees, next spring because of their innate hardiness, and appropriate management from the tea farmer.
Tea trees, which are innately strong against bad weather conditions, overcame this severe climate.
Taking a break near on tea leaf.
Insects hardly appear at this time due to this year's intense lingering summer heat. (35C / 95F at 10:00AM on Aug. 22)
OHTAKI waterfall 10min. drive away from our tea farms.
Prayed for the good harvest at here on Sep. 1st every year. To pray, UNAGI eels are discharged to the waterfall. It has been said that dragon incarnate from the UNAGI eels makes rain.
In contrast to intense lingering summer heat, it is so cool here.
Our Kuradashi teas have been aged in the granary by the traditional way since last year's May.
Kuradashi teas enriched in wooden boxes.
"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. This special autumn tea was called Kuradashi Tea, meaning tea taken out from the granary. Our Kuradashi Tea is aged in the granary for more than 1.5 years.
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, which are aged in the granary for more than 1.5 years, 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
Tips 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 Gyokuro is now available!
The Kuchikiri no Gi ceremony was solemnly and mindfully held at Kosho Temple in Uji and people celebrated Kuradashi Gyokuro on October 1. (For more information, please see above 'Kuchikiri no Gi ceremony.')
At the same time, our Kuradashi Gyokuro which has been stored for over 1.5 years was taken out from the granary. We have arranged three limited edition Kuradashi Gyokuro and one Kuradashi Sencha as described below. They are limited edition of 850 packages each ONLY AVAILABLE this autumn season. Two Kuradashi Matcha will start to be sold around late October. Please wait and see.
Celebrate Kuradashi Tea 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$26.00 (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$34.00 (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...