Sencha Karigane (200g/7.05oz)
|Karen Kletter (United States)
This is wonderful stuff. I'm very happy with Hibiki-an's Gyokuro Karigane Premium, but I wanted to try a karigane that was made entirely from sencha leaves and veins (my understanding is that almost all karigane contains gyokuro). I correspond with another Hibiki-an customer and fellow tea-lover who recommended it, so I included it with my most recent order (I didn't need much prodding).
Potential first-timers shouldn't expect karigane to taste exactly like sencha or gyokuro. It's very high-end kukicha, i.e. "twig tea," which means that it's a kind of tea byproduct that's made from the veins and stems left over from tea processing. Because Hibiki-an produces very high-quality, first-picked tea, their karigane is of a similarly high quality and possesses a very delicate flavor and aroma, even more delicate, in fact, than that of the tea from which it is produced. Don't look for vivid, in-your-face flavor and aroma; I've learned that it's not to be found in fine karigane.
What you will find is a unique, sweet/bitter/tangy brew that, based on its reasonable price, is appropriate for everyday enjoyment. When I opened the bag for the first time, I was struck by the freshness of the aroma that greeted my nostrils. There's no leaf to be found in either of the kariganes I've purchased--they both look to be approximately half stems and half veins (the pale stems contrasted with the dark veins make karigane a treat for the eyes as well as the palate and nose). I've had much better results with Mr Yasui's recommended brewing times/temperatures than with my own tinkering, hence I follow his guidelines religiously. I always use the maximum recommended amount of leaf for two cups with the shortest brewing times and lowest temperature for the first two infusions, followed by the highest recommend temperature and longest time for the third. All three were delicious--not the sublime experience that was afforded by the Gyokuro Karigane Premium with its lingering ambrosial aftertaste, but I didn't expect it to be. It is, after all, half the price and sencha and gyokuro are two very different cups of tea. My recommendation is that if your budget allows for it, try both! With any luck, your order will include the limited gift of rare tencha karigane (from matcha processing) that the Yasuis are including with orders placed at the time of this writing (and which I'm hoarding). It's a great opportunity to try three completely different kariganes which might just be the best of their respective kinds available anywhere.
BTW, I placed this order on a Monday, received confirmation a few hours later that it had been shipped, and plucked it from my mail box the following Saturday--this in spite of a legal holiday in the interim. Yet another stellar Hibiki-an experience.
5 of 5 Stars!
|July 08, 2007