Tea Reviews

Roasted Gyokuro Stems: Taking a Look at Our Karigane Houjicha

This is a roasted tea, consisting entirely of gyokuro stems. Karigane is a term used primary for tea that is made of the stems of gyokuro, a premium loose leaf Japanese green tea grown in the shade for a period of time. This differs from standard kukicha which is usually made of sencha stems. The difference in aroma, flavor, and body feel can be experienced when comparing kukicha and karigane side by side and roasting does not remove the noticeable differences. If anything, the roasting of these teas just adds another layer of complexity to both of them.

That being said, you can brew both of these teas very casually. You can throw boiling water on them and they will be very forgiving; they will not turn bitter at all. Tea in general can really benefit from roasting, at least so far as eliminating any unwanted bitterness in a tea (as is the case with roasted oolongs, for example.) Some of our sencha even go through a light roasting to slightly mellow out the fresh, green flavor of a tea.

The Overall Experience

The Karigane Houjicha still retains its umami character though the “seaside air” profile that gyokuro is usually is known for has been roasted away. What is left is what could be described as a slightly earthy aroma that that leans toward roasted hay or dried grass. The smooth taste of this tea cannot be understated, especially compared to the houji-kukicha which, again, is made of sencha stems. Sencha in general gets more sunlight than gyokuro, leading to a flavor that is more bitter. The stems of the tea plant generally do not get much sunlight than the leaves and therefore retain more L-theanine, giving the tea more of an umami character. Because gyokuro is already less exposed to sunlight before picking, the stems (karigane) especially have a lot of L-theanine. Add an additional roasting into the mix and you have Karigane Houjicha, a tea that has virtually no bitterness at all.

A Note About Caffeine

Something to note as well: the roasting of a tea removes much of the caffeine that it might have. Kukicha and karigane already are known to have lower level of caffeine than their leaf counterparts (sencha and gyokuro, respectively) and the roasting further lowers the caffeine.

Suffice it to say, we recommend this tea for those that are fans of gyokuro and/or of roasted tea in general, especially if you are looking for a tea that is low in caffeine. Follow our instagram and tiktok for more content like this. Also, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter by visiting our website and entering your email in the designated box at the bottom of the page.