This month, we have selected a Karigane Hōjicha (雁ヶ音ほうじ茶) from the prefecture of Mie (三重). We also selected this tea in February 2021.
Karigane Hōjicha is a harmonious blend of Japanese tea traditions and the ingenuity of utilizing the whole tea plant. Originating from the same plants that give us Gyokuro (玉露), Karigane consists of the stems, stalks, and twigs, which are often sidelined in the production of more conventional teas.
These components, however, are anything but secondary; they retain deep, vegetal flavors. When gently roasted, they transform into Hōjicha, acquiring a toasty, slightly caramelized profile. This roasting process not only imparts a comforting warmth to the tea but also reduces its caffeine content, making it a favorite for evening enjoyment.
The resulting Karigane Hōjicha brew is a lovely amber-hued infusion, with a nutty aroma and a smooth, clean taste that lingers pleasantly on the palate.
Festival of the First Offerings at Ise Grand Shrine
Mie is most renown for the Grand Shrine of Ise (伊勢神宮), Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrine, dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami, the sun goddess and mythical ancestress of the Imperial Family.
The Kannamesai (神嘗祭) is the most important annual festival held at Ise Grand Shrine. Rooted in Shinto beliefs, this festival is held from the 17th to the 24th of October, signifying a ritual offering to the deities of the year's new harvest. The name "Kannamesai" translates to "Festival of the First Offerings," reflecting the essence of gratitude and reverence towards the kami, or spirits, that protect and nourish the land.
The ceremony is exclusive in nature, traditionally attended only by the Emperor or a royal representative, emphasizing the deep connection between the Imperial Family and Shinto practices. During the festival, sacred offerings of newly harvested rice, millet, and silk are presented at the shrine's inner sanctum, symbolizing the cyclical bond between the heavens and earth's bounty.
The Kannamesai at Ise shrine is a deeply important festival that honors Japan's close relationship with nature. As autumn arrives, with its colorful leaves, this festival is not just about following old traditions. The ceremony is a quiet, respectful nod to the natural world and its ongoing generosity, reminding people of their connection to nature's steady rhythms and cycles.
Preparing Karigane Hōjicha
The quantity of tea should be adapted to the desired taste: about 3 grams of Hōjicha for 120mL (4oz) of spring water. The infusion should last 30 seconds in boiling water. The 2nd infusion should be slightly shorter than the first, and the third infusion even shorter.