Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tea Appreciation: Kukicha

Kukicha (茎茶) or boucha (棒茶) is a Japanese green tea made from the twigs and stems of the tea plant.  The stems have a higher concentration of amino acids like L-theanine and fewer tannins, giving kukicha a sweeter, less bitter taste than other teas.  The stems also have lower caffeine content than tea leaves.

Growing, Harvesting, Processing
Kukicha is very versatile as it can be produced from almost any tea plant, shaded or unshaded, at any time during the harvest season. The twigs and stems are separated from the leaves by machine during processing.

Kukicha can be roasted or left green, blended in genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice) and blended with tea leaves.

Kagaboucha (加賀棒茶), houjiboucha (ほうじ棒茶), and houji-kukicha (ほうじ茎茶) are all names for roasted kukicha.

Karigane (雁ヶ音/雁が音) is the name for kukicha produced from gyokuro or high-grade sencha in the Kansai region around Kyoto.

Shiraore (白折) is the name for kukicha produced from the first harvest of gyokuro or high-grade sencha in provinces within the Kyushu region.

Note that some macrobiotic publications list roasted kukicha as simply "kukicha", as this may cause confusion when buying tea.

Kukicha should be prepared at temperatures and times you would use for the tea leaves from the same plant.

For karigane or shiraore: Heat water to 140°F/60°C-160°F/71°C and steep for 1-2 minutes before serving.

For regular or roasted kukicha: Heat water to 175°F/79°C-185°F/85°C and steep for 1-2 minutes before serving. Kukicha is generally inexpensive and forgiving, so don't be afraid to experiment with time and temperature to bring out the best flavor.

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