Sunday, May 16, 2010

2009 Ichibancha Karigane Sencha and Korean poetry

I’m being impatient.
The weather is more and more awful everyday, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano still refuses to stop fuming and, therefore, air transport is unstable and often not working at all.
I’m worried about my 2010 Shincha. If this will continue, there is a high possibility it won't arrive.
I'm soothing myself with Karigane, tea, which is always here. In my flat, it's a constant certainty. Just like there is always a can of salt and sugar, there always is an air-tight porcelain jar filled with Karigane Sencha, specifically one from Kyoto, imported by one good (as always) Czech company.
Karigane (also known as Kukicha, but I prefer the first name) is Japanese tea, or, better said, waste material made of stems, stalks and twigs, just if you don't know. Thanks to its low caffeine content, it's suitable for drinking even in late evening - I am a good example, drinking it all day long.
Nowadays, as a result of my longing for this year's first harvest of Japanese tea, I'm drinking even more of this stuff than ever before.

(At least I was able to go out and pick some new flowers, even though I got drenched to the bone. It was still worth it.)

The infusion color is beautifully green, with this opacification typical for Japanese teas. Taste is smooth, milky and creamy with all notes of high quality Sencha (as this actual Karigane is made of Sencha stems; there are also versions made of Gyokuro and Kabuse, which are sweeter and "heavier" in character), but there is a little bit of Karigane woodiness, the result of stems being the main part of this tea.

As always with Japanese teas, I made four infusions, beginning with quite cold water and increasing the temperature with every new infusion.
First infusion is still much more creamy than woody, with no tones of bitterness at all. So is the second.
Woodiness starts to dominate in third infusion, being, along with spring freshness, the main part of taste in fourth. However, there still aren't any tones of bitterness at all.
I often wish Japanese teas would give out much more infusions... But then, I realize that good things always go in small quantities. This doesn't apply for sheng puerh and jade oolongs, because they are obviously witchy.


Another thing - Few weeks ago, modern Korean poetry caught my attention. It all started with this little, inconspicuous book titled "The light of extinction" (my very estimative translation from Czech, can be different) by O Se-jong.
Interestingly, these poems were different from anything I've read before, different from our, European poetry and different from poems of other eastern Asian countries, such as Japan and China.
Few days later, I bought Ko Un's Flowers of a Moment.
I just have to share some of his poems.

At sunset

a wish:
to become a wolf beneath the moon


If I lie down, I’ll be done for
an ailing animal
staying standing all day long

It’s been that kind of day in the world, my dear


April 30
Look at that pale green hue on So-un Mountain

On such a day
what love
what hate


Hey, May beetle
shaking your wings
even you are singing

Read his books. Drink tea. It's worth it.


  1. I have an excess of kukicha on stock as well, and at the moment, I prefer it more than the sencha I have.
    I suppose that the sencha is not of the highest quality. That would most likely explain it.
    Although the kukicha I have not as thick stemmed as yours is. The stems are thinner.
    Maybe a different cut...?
    Either way, I enjoy it very much!

  2. William,
    Kukicha teas often vary a lot, I drank many different Karigane teas and all of them seemed to be at least a little bit different. It mostly depends on the harvest - ichibancha (first) and nibancha (second) karigane teas vary a lot, especially in leaf size and color. There are also big differences in kukichas made from different kinds of tea (sencha, kabuse and gyokuro), method of processing (that's why in some karigane teas, stems are cut in half, while in others, they are complete) and cultivar used, e.g. Yabukita, Gokoh etc.
    There are many other factors affecting Karigane teas, so take this just as an illustration.
    About a year ago, I purposely bought two different Karigane teas from one producer - Marukyu Koyamaen. One was made of Sencha and one of Gyokuro. It was really amazing how these two teas varied, both in look, smell and taste - they were both great, but absolutely different at the same time. It's a shame I hadn't took a photo back then.
    But as you said, it isn't so important, because the main part of Karigane teas is that they are, in most cases, very delicious.

  3. Poetry from Asia is always amazing. Thanks for sharing those.

    Have not tried any Japanese sencha yet. Will have to purchase some soon.

  4. Asiatic Fox,
    it indeed is! I've been enjoying and appreciating ancient Chinese and Japanese poetry for years, but I've never read modern Korean poetry before. Therefore, this is a brand new experience for me and I really enjoy it!

  5. Ever read any Sijo poetry? If not, you should check this out: