TEA STORIES: KUKICHA
A tea made of twigs might not sound instantly appealing - but believe us, Kukicha (Kuki means stem or stalk, and cha, of course, is tea) is a really novel and delicious tea that’s much more than the sum of its unusual parts. Kukicha was originally the beverage of choice for tea farmers - it had to be, it was all they had. After they’d harvested, processed and sold the best of their crops, all that farmers were left with were piles of twigs and stems. That might have been useful for compost, maybe even animal feed. But thirsty farmers were canny enough to reason that if the leaves they were selling were making excellent tea then the stems that serviced them must surely have something going for them, too.
WHAT DOES KUKICHA TASTE LIKE?
Kukicha has a delicate, sweet, nutty taste and, even though it’s not roasted during manufacture, it does remind some drinkers of Hojicha. Because it’s made from stems of leaves destined to be Gyokuro, sensitive palettes will be able to taste hints of that tea's famous ‘covering aroma’, reminiscent of fresh seaweed and known in Japan variously as hifuku kaori or ooi kaori. Rather less
romantically it’s actually the chemical dimethyl sulfide - but we prefer to describe it as the fleeting sensation of being alone on a beach at dawn.
DOES KUKICHA HAVE HEALTH BENEFITS?
Kukicha is much lower in caffeine than exclusively leaf tea, which makes it a really good brew for early evenings and before bedtimes. Caffeine aside, though, Kukicha has all the same levels of mood-enhancing L-theanine as the leaf tea. There’s lots
of vitamin C and Calcium stored up in these twigs, too, just waiting to be released by infusion in hot water. It’s an alkalizing drink, too so a really good after-meal digestif - especially with the digestion of grains and vegetables - which helps keep stomach acid at bay. Those who live by the macrobiotic diet can rest assured that Kukicha is a recommended accompaniment.
HOW TO BREW A PERFECT ORGANIC KUKICHA
Tea: 4g (0.14 oz. = 1 heaped tsp.)
Water: 1 cup (200ml)
Temperature: (75 - 85°C)
Steep Time: 20 - 40 seconds