What Is Kukicha?
Kukicha, also known as twig tea or bōcha is a green tea originating from Japan. It is a blend of stalks, stems, and twigs deriving from the production of matcha or sencha. All teas come from the Camellia sinensis plant, and kukicha is no exception.
You’ve maybe never heard of this tea, for it is rarely discussed or sold in western countries (although is still popular in Japan). If you came across kukicha and didn’t know what it was, here is the guide for you.
This unique tea came about in Uji, Japan where tea farmers developed a method for producing what they called a “peasant’s drink.” Since the parts of the tea plant used were leftovers from the production of other teas, kukicha was and is still known as a second-grade tea. A lack of documented history stops us from knowing more about this tea, in addition to kukicha being overlooked in the tea world.
How It’s Made
As mentioned previously, this type of tea is made up of the leftovers from the production of other teas. The twigs and stems are taken from sencha and bancha teas. When the leftovers from gyokuro tea are used instead, the leaves will be labeled as karigane or shiraore.
In the early spring, during the first flush of the season, the tea bushes will be picked over for one bud and three leaves to create Japanese teas such as sencha. Kukicha is made from the leftover stalks from those very pickings and will be mixed and cut to similar lengths. This is done to create a uniform appearance throughout the twigs and stems. Afterwards the tea will go through the process of withering, followed by drying (to prevent oxidation from happening).
Tea farmers will harvest it all by hand, although there has been surge in the use of machinery. Since the twigs and stems from the tea bushes aren’t easily damaged, machines have been proven to work effectively.
What Does It Taste Like?
Kukicha and various other Japanese teas are best prepared in a kyusu a traditional Japanese teapot made from clay. Depending on its size, use 4-8g of kukicha tea with filtered/spring water heated to somewhere between 70-85°C. Steep for 1-3 minutes, depending on your preferences.
Japanese teas usually come with strict instructions on how to properly brew them, although Kukicha tends to be more forgiving regarding the steeping time. Taste the different steeps and decide for yourself what you enjoy more.
With this tea, you can re-infuse up to three times. Although be aware that the taste will significantly decrease after the first steep, so be sure to enjoy the first!
Another amazing way to enjoy kukicha is by making a cold brew. For this you will need 20g of tea and 1 litre of room temperature filtered/spring water. Combine the two in a pitcher and let it sit for 1-2 hours before placing it into your fridge.
From here, you decide how long you want to continue to steep the tea depending on how strong you prefer it. Add whatever ingredients you want to further flavor your iced tea. Examples include lemon, honey, fruit, herbs, etc.
Next time you come across Kukicha, be sure to give it a try! It’s delightful and balanced taste is sure to leave you wanting more. It’s somewhat sad that western countries have ignored this unique Japanese tea for so long. Let’s change that and give this tea the appreciation and love it deserves!
Have you ever tried Kukicha before?