Hibiki-An is the one tea shop I’ve actually visited in Japan (in Utsunomi?). It’s kind of fabulous. I had almost forgotten about its existence until i stumbled across their international website while researching a tea earlier in the year. Suffice it to say my jaw dropped and i smacked my forehead with the palm of my head, dumbfounded.
Hibiki-An is far and away one of the most exclusive tea vendors you’ll encounter. For this, my first order from them, I bought a grand total of 3 teas and a package of youkan (which I’ve already eaten through). Hibiki-An’s minimum amount of loose leaf for online ordering is 200 grams (four times more than i actually ever need). I saved money by buying one of their sampler sets, but even then it came to $32.50 USD. For the purposes of this blog, I feel like i can justify the cost, but i have no idea how many of you would be moved to do so. Admittedly Light of Day Organics prices outstrip all others, but then i was hard-pressed to even find much in the way of organic teas from Hibiki-An, let alone Biodynamic tea.
In addition to rare Japanese teas, Hibiki-An also sells some utterly gorgeous teawares (which frustratingly i can’t justify) that i’d want to put in my own tea shop if ever opened one. Apart from garage sales, I highly doubt you’ll find these ceramics for sale anywhere outside of Japan. I’m particularly taken with the Tsutsugata Wooden Yunomi.
Although i know Hibiki-An has some of the most refined Japanese teas I’ll ever come across, for my first order i decided to buy their Organic Tea Tasting set. I have been steadily moving more and more toward buying only Organic teas when i can (lest I die too early from pesticide poisoning to make this blog useful for you). Additionally, given that Hibiki-An only sells in quantities greater than 200 grams, i decided to use the excess loose leaf for my personal breakfast teas. They’re probably not the most fabulous organic Greens i have access to, but they are definitely drinkable. Then to, there’s something to be said for waking up to the smell and taste of some of Kyoto’s best tea. xD
Included in the Organic Tea Tasting set is Matcha-iri Genmaicha, Sencha Superior and Houjicha. I’ve had a chance to try all three at this point and none have disappointed (reviews forth-coming). I wish i had been able to get a Bancha or a Gyokuro from Hibiki-An though. Maybe next time.
Oh, and i guess i could give a brief overview of Youkan: Youkan is sweet bean jelly, often the primary ingredient in Wagashi (sweets offered during a traditional Japanese tea ceremony). I fell in love with Wagashi when i was able to observe a tea ceremony performed by the Taisho Daigaku Chanoyu-bu (the Tea Ceremony Club at The University of Taisho in Suginami-ku, Tokyo). Of the four flavors offered in Hibiki-An’s Youkan, i enjoyed the Ogura (adzuki bean flavor) and Yuzu the most. If you like Wagashi or other Japanese sweets, I highly recommend Youkan. ;) Note: Youkan comes frustratingly wrapped in a half dozen layers of packaging as seen below… ^^;;