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Japan may have invented the tea ceremony, but that doesn’t mean that every occasion to drink the beverage is considered a solemn cultural experience. Modern residents of Japan don’t generally have the time for a highly ritualized brewing and sipping of a cup of tea, and are instead far more likely to satisfy their cravings with an inexpensive bottle of green tea bought from a vending machine or convenience store.

But swinging the pendulum back the other way is beverage company Ito En, which is releasing a super-premium bottled green tea made with Japan’s highest quality leaves, and an eye-popping price to match.

Just about every convenience store and supermarket in Japan keeps a stock of Ito En’s Oi Ocha teas on hand, and you can find them for sale in vending machines as well. There’s a lot of variety to the line too. Of course standard ocha green tea is available, as are roasted hojicha, matcha, and other varieties, many of which are sold both hot or cold.

Oi Ocha gets high marks from Japanese consumers for its taste, and with most varieties priced at about 150 yen (US$1.25), the teas are perennial big sellers. Ito En’s newest addition to the Oi Ocha line, however, is seeking to move its affordable luxury a bit more towards the “luxury” end of the equation.

One of Japan’s most prized types of tea leaves is gyokuro. Gyokuro leaves are cultivated in the shade for the final 20 days or so before picking, and protecting them from the harsh sunlight boosts their concentration of flavorful theanine amino acids.

▼ Gyokuro leaves

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Because of the extra effort and cost involved in producing gyokuro, it’s often mixed with other, less expensive types of green tea, adding a dash of flavor and elegance to the mix. From October 26, though, Ito En will be selling a limited edition of Oi Ocha made entirely from gyokuro, priced at 1,000 yen (US$8.40) for a 375-milliliter (12.7-ounce) bottle, which makes it by far the most expensive member of the Oi Ocha lineup.

Fittingly, Ito En isn’t pushing the all-gyokuro version as something to gulp down during your lunch break, but as something to serve to guests or to give as a present (high-quality food and beverages are always appreciated gifts in Japan, after all). And while there’s no denying the 1,000-yen price tag causes a bit of sticker shock, on a per-milliliter basis it works out to about the same as a 2,000-yen bottle of wine, something many gourmands would say is a perfectly acceptable amount to pay for a palate-pleasing accent or follow-up to a fine meal.

<!em>Sources: Japaan, Ito En
Top image: Ito En (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert image: Wikipedia/Rama