Monday, January 19, 2009

Kuradashi Gykuro Hibiki-an

Hibiki-an Kuradashi Gyokuro "Super Premium." The "super premium" title is just some marketing mumbo jumbo that Hibiki-an thinks makes their tea sound better. Really, it's just there for hierarchical sake. Kuradashi refers to the type of gyokuro it is. Kuradashi gyokuro can be summarized as an intentionally aged tea. Traditional gyokuro is aged for up to 6 months, while kuradashi gyokuro can be stored over a year for enrichment. Hibiki-an aged their kuradashi in unsealed foil bags in wooden boxes, which are then kept in a refrigerator. For more information than you probably want on Hibiki-an's kuradashi, and kuradashi tea in general, see here.

The first thing noticed in the tea liquor is how clear it is. Wow! I'm not well versed in the area of gyokuro, but I've never seen one come out so clear! Along with the color, the aroma is also subdued, but has notes of sweet honeydew and grass. I'm also somewhat surprised at how light the flavor is. There's no punch, not at all, instead, if one weren't paying attention, it might seem like water! But there is still some viscosity that follows the honeydew and grass on their sweet passage across the tongue, and the very slightest hint of astringency that is the tea telling you it's still there. A later note on this tea is that it stays very consistent from steep to steep, hardly being able to distinguish one from the next. It does drop off in flavor in the 4th infusion, even though the flavor consistency stays.

Synopsis: A much refined tea for the initiated palate. Likely a pleasure to those new to Japanese greens as well, but more stimulating for those who can appreciate the flavors locked by refinement. In other words, experienced tasters can be analogized to sound systems with very powerful amplifiers, being able to pull out tastes that could easily be looked over as "noise." Characterized mostly by the sweet honeydew, it is an easy-to-enjoy pleasure, but at $24/40g, it's also a very expensive one.


LaoChaGui said...

While I concede their tea heirarchy is rather meaningless, you have to admit that Hibiki-an came up with some impressive sounding words for their grading system. I have never seen a tea grade as impressive as pinnacle.

Did you notice their price increase?

Wes Crosswhite said...

The pinnacle title is quite worthy of respect, though, their pinnacle fukamushi wasn't worth anywhere near the pinnacle price.

I haven't noticed the price jump (haven't bought form them in a long time), but the dollar has fallen significantly to the yen, so it's expected.

Bret said...

Not to judge your brewing parameters but you do realize your using a fraction of the quantity of tea normally used. The recommended ratio is for 200 ml water use 8 grams of tea, that's about 2 tablespoons. I think the result would be an apples and oranges scenario.

Wes Crosswhite said...


A said...

I am sipping the Kuradashi Gyokuro Pinnacle (40g/1.41oz) as we speak, and I can assure you, you're brewing it wrong.

I used 5g in a 150ml gaiwan.
water temperature: 140f.
1 3/4 min. steep.

Now let me tell you. The smell of the wet leaves nearly sent me to my knees the smell was soooo intense. So while I was smelling the tea I grabbed a few leaves with my tongue an ate them. They were extremely vegetative tasting. Although, it felt like there was no way to pack that much plant taste into these tiny little leaves. Sip after sip was a lightly soy sauced soup, perhaps miso soup. Building on the miso, a forest of vegetable matter is rushing into your mouth an speeds too high to comprehend forcing the tea to stop time momentarily as the taste catches up with the speed of light and time resumes normally.

I can say this because the first time I sipped it, I was in a relaxed meditative state and breaking through to a higher meditative realization. The understanding of concepts without perspective, thus removing an ego aside, to join one in one with the thought, not connected, so joined by definition.

I'll stop there, what would like to wrap up by saying, this is indeed the best tea I have had, for shear power.