After seeing an Instagram post about Kukicha, I was eager to try this tea myself. I’ve had this tea for a while so yesterday was the perfect day to brew it for the first time. I did 5g of tea “leaves” (not really leaves) for a 150ml glass teapot with 80°C water. The steeps were 15 – 20 – 25 – 30 seconds. I only had time for four steeps but I think this was a good starting point. Unfortunately, I did not take any notes while tasting but I’m planning on doing a tea tasting in the near future because I was really intrigued by this tea. That is why I wanted to know more about it and write down my thoughts.
What is it?
Kukicha (or twig tea) is a Japanese green tea that is quite unusual because it is not made from tea leaves like most other teas. Huh? Tea that is not made from tea leaves? What is it made of then? The big difference with other (green) teas is that Kukicha is made from twigs and stems from the tea plant. This is why this tea has a different taste than most other green teas; it is made from parts that are not used in other green teas, generally speaking.
Where does it come from?
Normal tea consists of tea leaves. Kukicha is not made from leaves but from twigs and stems. But where do these come from? Usually, the stems come from producing sencha, kabusecha or even gyokuro green tea. In order to produce one of these Japanese green teas, one uses the leaves while the twigs and stems are leftovers. These leftovers are, however, not thrown away. These are used to produce Kukicha or stick tea. The highest quality Kukicha is made from gyokuro green tea and is called karigane.
What is so special about it?
Next to the fact that is not made from tea leaves, there are some more unusual things about this tea. Because it is made from other materials than most teas, it is naturally low in caffeine. It is also high in L-theanine because this substance is produced in the roots and sent to the leaves via the stems, which are used to make this tea. L-theanine increases alpha brain wave activity and results in a relaxed feeling. This also gives the tea its sweet flavour.
What is L-theanine?
L-theanine is an amino acid for which Camellia Sinensis is known. Its main benefit is its calming and relaxing effect. It also activates alpha brain waves, which are responsible for relaxation. These are the same brain waves that get activated during meditation and is why Kukicha is sometimes drunk during meditation. L-theanine creates a relaxed but alert feeling without any feelings of anxiety or restlessness. In a way, the effects of L-theanine are the positive effects of caffeine without the bad stuff.
Health benefits of Kukicha?
Kukicha is made from stems and twigs and these are the link between the roots of the plant and the tea leaves. Through these, the minerals and vitamins are transported from the roots to the leaves and that is why stems and twigs have high amounts of minerals and vitamins. One can describe the stems and twigs as a conveyor belt between the roots and leaves. According to Julie Ong, the author of The Everything Guide to Macrobiotics, Kukicha even contains more calcium than cow’s milk.
L-theanine is an antioxidant and it is scientifically proven that the antioxidants in green tea are effective against all kinds of cancer (a review in the 2011 edition of Pharmalogical research). The antioxidants are capable of stopping harmful substances in the human body. An example of a harmful substance are cancer cells.
Of course, there are more positive effects of this tea but these are the most important ones. I really enjoyed drinking this tasty tea and I’m looking forward to do a proper tea tasting!