|Karigane Kukicha is a twig tea made from stems of highly prized Gyokuro. The
cultivation of Gyokuro involves shade growing, producing tea leaves vibrant
green in color and rich with umami flavor. The taste Karigane is lighter and
sweeter when compared with full-bodied Gyokuro.|
"Kari" translates to
"wild geese." When brewing Karigane, often stems float on top of the tea. In
Japan, some say this evokes the image of driftwood, where wild geese might rest
on their migration over the sea.
Prepare Karigane Kukicha in the same
way as Gyokuro. Use a small vessel, a lot of leaf, low water temperature and
short steeping times.
'Kukicha' simply means 'twig tea' in Japanese. The premium
taste and appearance of Sencha, Gyokuro and Matcha teas require a step in
production when the stems and stalks are removed from the finished tea. These
discarded twigs are often used to make "kukicha", meaning "twig tea." They are
low in caffeine, and have a range of flavors from light and vegetal to dark and woody,
depending on the tea plant and processing.
Teas from the Uji Region
Uji is Japan's most well known, and beloved center of Japanese tea cultivation. Stunning in natural beauty, the city sits on the banks of the Uji River. The
high reputation of Uji tea is a result of its ideal climate and soil, and its tea has long been favored by the Japanese Imperial Family and Tea Ceremony
practitioners. Its downtown plays host to many tea houses and purveyors that have been perfecting their craft for centuries.
Styles of tea cultivated here are mainly gyokuro, matcha and sencha. With limited land, farmers focus on quality and not quantity. In fact, Uji only produces a small percentage of the total tea produced each year in Japan, yet its tea commands nearly twice the price compared with other regions.
About Japanese Teas
History & Geography
Japan is an island country located in the Pacific
Ocean. Made up of over 3,000 islands, it forms an archipelago that
stretches along the Pacific Coast of Asia. 70 to
80 percent of its land is mountainous and not suitable for permanent living or
agriculture. Most the population lives in densely populated areas, in coastal
Tea first was introduced to Japan in the 900's through Zen Buddhism, when
returning Japanese monks brought tea seeds back with them from China.
Emulating what they had seen in China,
they first cultivated powdered tea, or matcha, a style popular in Song Dynasty China. The tea
was whisked in a bowl and shared, eventually evolving into the Japanese Tea
Japan credits the rise of tea drinking to a Monk named Eisai. Returning from China,
he planted tea seeds in the capitol of Kyoto
and writes a book "A Record of Tea Drinking for Good Health." In 1214, he was
summoned to administer the last rights to a young shogun, who was suffering
terribly. Eisai diagnosed him with being hung over, revived him with a bowl of
tea and presented him with his book. The shogun adopts tea drinking and a tea
Tea Production Today
Today, Japan produces both powdered and
loose leaf styles of green (un-oxidized) tea. They are divided into 4
catagories: matcha, sencha, gyokuro and bancha teas. The most important growing
regions are: Uji, Shizouka, Kagoshima and Kyoto Prefectures. Uji, Japan, just south of Kyoto, is the most famous
tea-growing region in Japan. Most of the finest teas come from this
region even though it produces on 4 percent of Japan's tea.
Our Japanese teas include: bancha, Genmaicha (tea with popped and roasted rice), hojicha (roasted tea), karigane kukicha (twig tea), sencha, gyokuro, and matcha.
While there are different cultivation/processing
methods unique to each style of tea, they all have the same first step in common:
steaming. Immediately after the tea leaves are picked, they are steamed to halt
the oxidization process. In contrast, Chinese green teas are pan or oven fired.
Japan currently harvests most of its tea mechanically.
Traditional hand picking is now reserved for small lots of premium tea.
The specialized harvesting equipment ranges from large tractor-like machines to
smaller gas powered trimmers, which are carried by two people who walk between
the rows of tea. The farmers using these precision machines are able to target
the new shoots on the plant, while a vacuum pulls the clipped leaves into a
Japanese green teas are
famous for their umami
taste, a flavor best described as the natural sweetness of the tea
leaf, tasting like ocean and refreshing spring greens. This pronounced
occurring at different intensities depending on the tea, is directly
how the tea was cultivated and processed. Generally,
high grades of matcha, gyokuro and sencha teas have the strongest, sweet umami