Kukicha is a unique looking tea in that it contains stems and stalks from the production of Sencha or Gyokuro. This stem tea has a unique aroma, natural sweetness, and contains a high L-Theanine (amino acid) level which promotes calmness.
"Kuki" means stem, twig or stalk and "cha" is tea. After picking the leaves, the farmer makes a tea called Aracha. Aracha means rough tea. Aracha is made up of irregular shaped leaves, small broken leaves and stems. Aracha is not a finished tea nor is it worth selling to consumers. At a re-manufacturing factory like the one at Den's parent company, Shirakata-Denshiro Shoten, Aracha is processed into beautiful Sencha or Gyokuro by sifting, dividing sizes, taking out stems and broken leaves, etc. So Kukicha can be considered as a secondary product of Sencha or Gyokuro. (Other secondary products are Mecha and Konacha more about these later.) It was once traded very cheaply because the Japanese were mostly interested in Sencha or Gyokuro and did not pay attention to Kukicha. However they discovered Kukicha's unique mellow and Umami flavor and it is now as valued as Sencha or Gyokuro.
Which part of bush is used for Kukicha?
The picture on the right shows which part of the plant can be used for Kukicha. When tea leaves are picked, stems are picked at the same time. While the good tea leaves are steamed, rolled, kneaded and dried, the stems and many torn or broken tea leaves are separated from the good tea.
Health benefits and Exceptional Flavor
Comparing the tea leaf and the stem, stems contain more amounts of "L-Theanine" (a factor of Umami), "Pyrazine" (an aromatic organic compound) and "geraniol linalool", (a flowery or sweet aroma). This is because, L-Theanine in the tea leaf turns to tannin (a factor of bitterness) through photosynthesis caused by sunshine. However photosynthesis does not happen to the stems even under sunshine, so L-Theanine remains in the stem resulting a pure Umami taste.
L-Theanine is known for its benefits as a relaxant. It generates alpha-waves in the brain. Alpha waves are emitted when the brain is in a relaxed state. Scientists are also examining L-Theanine’s ability to improve the brain’s memory capability.
There are two steps to take stems out of the Aracha:
No.1 Denbo - Statistic electricity drum machine Denbo uses an electrical stick. The tea leaves pass through a rolling drum containing high voltage electricity. Since stems are drier, the drum can easily pick them up by static electricity. The tea leaves which contain more moisture, pass through since they don't stick to the drum.
No. 2 Shikibetsu - Color sort machine Shikibetsu separates by color. This machine has many slots that the tea passes through. At the bottom, a color sensor recognizes the color of the tea leaf. If the color is pale, the sensor blows a stream of air to hit the pale colored stems while the green tea passes through. Isn't it amazing?
What determines the quality of Kukicha?
The quality of Kukicha simply depends on the quality of Sencha or Gyokuro that produced the stems. If Kukicha was processed from good quality tea then the quality of the Kukicha is good too.
Name Background for Karigane
"Karigane" is a Japanese term for a wild goose. Folklore says that some of these wild geese often hold small branches in their beaks while they fly. They then put them on the water and sit on them. The branches they carry resemble twigs from tea bushes and Kukicha (twig tea) has been called "Karigane" in some areas of Japan.
Brewing is easy and you can enjoy the good flavor with a casual brewing technique. Kukicha contains high amount of L-Theanine with lower amount of tannin, so even if you brew it with high temperature water, it won't be bitter. We recommend 180F water and a steeping time of about 60 seconds to get a robust aroma and flavor.
Use left/right arrows to navigate the slideshow or swipe left/right if using a mobile device
Choosing a selection results in a full page refresh.
Press the space key then arrow keys to make a selection.