Uji Karigane (宇治田原雁が音) is a fine Japanese gyokuro green tea from Uji Tawara, Kyoto Prefecture, a location said to be the ‘home of Japanese green tea’. The name Karigane translates as wild goose and is one of the names that this type of tea goes by. It is made from a blend of cultivars that are specifically chosen and grown for gyokuro green tea. During the growth the tea trees are also shaded, resulting in a stronger, more flavoursome tea. This Karigane tea is made by blending the fine gyokuro leaves with stems that also come from gyokuro production. This batch is from the May 2020 harvest and had the benefit of approximately 1 year of ageing under controlled conditions in Japan, a method used traditionally to improve flavours of gyokuro and matcha.
Karigane belongs to a generally broader group of Kukicha teas, which are made from a blend of tea leaves and tea leaf stems. As it is made with the stems, it’s also known as ‘twig tea’. The stems generally contain higher sugar content compared to the leaf, which leads to a more balanced and smoother tea profile. While Kukicha can be made from different types of tea leaves, Karigane tea is made only from leaves and stems from Gyokuro production. Hence this tea is often called Gyokuro Kukicha (玉露茎茶) in Kyoto. It is also known as Shiraore (白折) if it comes from Kyushu.
Uji Karigane undergoes a growing process that is unique to gyokuro and differs from most other tea growing. During growth the tea plants are shaded for about 20 days prior to harvesting that typically occurs in May of each year. High quality tea such as this Uji Karigane is normally shaded using traditional shades made out of bamboo that cover the tea plants from up to 90% of the sun. The covering of the tea forces the tea plants to slow the rate of photosynthesis, leading to higher levels of theanine. This change in chemistry of the leaves creates a much sweeter, mellower taste with a bolder character that is grassy and rich in umami flavours.
Our Uji Karigane has attractively coloured dark green leaves that are mixed with the lighter coloured stems. It produces a cloudy yellow-green liquor with a grassy aroma. The flavours are particularly smooth and mouth-coating. The dominant notes are savoury and grassy. The taste starts on the more grassy notes that then progress to more umami flavours with notes of nori seaweed. There is also plentiful smooth creaminess present throughout that makes this tea particularly balanced. The finish is clean, without astringency that leaves a satisfying lightly sweet aftertaste.
You can brew this tea Western style 2.5g of tea per 200-250ml at 70°C fo 1-2 minutes. But for best authentic results we find 10g per 250ml of water to be the correct amount for this tea. Brew using good quality water that has been heated to 70°C and using traditional Japanese teaware. As you are using lower temperature water, preheating your teaware prior to brewing is a particularly good idea. In our tasting, a first infusion of 90 seconds followed by multiple infusions at around 60 seconds, worked particularly well. As always, keep increasing steeping time until no flavour is left.