Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: twiggy, varied greens and browns
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: kyusu
Liquor: dark amber
Hojicha gets a bit of a bum wrap as a low-quality tea. Roasted stems? How dare they! The truth is that there are levels to everything, particularly in the world of tea. It all comes down to when it is harvested, where it is grown, and how it is made. The earlier in the year that the leaves are picked, the better the end result will usually be. Karigane is a term that is used to describe stem tea made from higher quality teas like sencha and gyokuro. You won't usually see it used for bancha and other low-grade teas.
Karigane is a bit of a poetic name that means "the sound of geese". The stems floating on the water are reminiscent of the branches that wild geese are said to carry while migrating. Hojicha might not look like it but it is still technically a green tea. The leaves are roasted, reducing the caffeine quite a bit and changes the aromas to warm and roasted rather than fresh and astringent like most green teas. If this tea were not roasted, it would be called kukicha. Unlike most Japanese teas, it is not very sensitive to temperature so it can be made with much hotter water.
The taste of this tea was sweet and comfortingly toasty. Hints of maple syrup and an ever so slight smokiness were present throughout multiple infusions. The finish was refreshing and light with no bitterness at all. My smallest kyusu needed close to 8g of leaf (Does that mean I need to go shopping?) but it was well worth it for a concentrated brew. You could go with less but I'd suggest increasing your steep time accordingly. The lower caffeine level makes this a perfect tea for nighttime tea cravings but I also really enjoy it as a calm start to the day.
Yannoko Tea is a fairly new company out of Canada that specializes in Japanese and Chinese teas. This is the first offering that I've tried from them but it definitely won't be the last. There are several more teas, including gyokuro and two different kinds of sencha, waiting patiently in my "to be reviewed" drawer. I just checked and this tea is currently on sale. It's a perfect time to stock up!
Have you ever tried this tea? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!