The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Japan's Kukicha and Karigane Twig Teas
A Peasant's Tea Fit For a King
Both Kukicha and Karigane are made from the stems, stalks, and twigs removed
during processing of Japan's sencha and gyokuro green teas.  Kukicha, also call-
ed Bocha or Boucha, comes from sencha and Karigane or Karigane Cha (also
called Wild Goose or Wild Goose Song) comes from the gyokuro harvest.
Kukicha twig tea is made
from separately processed
pieces of leaf and stalk cuttings, then both
are cut to precise lengths before being mixed
together to create an exacting, uniform tea.

Kukicha tea originated from the
tea gardens
of Uji, located between the ancient capitals
of Nara and Kyoto.  After selling off the more
valuable leaves and buds, the tea farmers
would then make Kukicha from the remaining
stalks and twigs, creating a precise method
of processing for what they considered a
"peasant's tea."

Today Kukicha is still considered a poor
man's tea in
Japan, but not so in the West
where it's considered to be a healthful, rejuvenating drink, sought after for its supposed ability
to stabilize one's
health and promote longevity.

These and other health benefits attributed to Kukicha have been
promoted by George Ohsawa, founder of macrobiotics.  Kukicha is
central to the macrobiotics diet, based on the premise that the key
to optimum well being is a balanced diet.

Ohsawa's macrobiotic diet consists of mainly whole grains, fruits,
vegetables, legumes, and seaweed, along with Kukicha twig tea
as one of the recommended beverages.

Kukicha contains minimal
caffeine, making it a great day or evening tea.  It's also a good tea for
children, especially when mixed with fruit juices, such as apple, and served cold.  With its low
caffeine it's also a good tea for the elderly.

                                      Kukicha twig tea is a specialty tea made only in the early spring from
                                      the first
sencha harvests.  It is made strictly from the sencha stalks
                                      produced by harvesting one bud and three leaves.

                                      Kukicha can also be made from the stems of the
roasted green tea,
                                      Hojicha, which adds a more toasted, slightly smoky quality to the
                                      flavor.  The flavor of Kukicha is considered to be as good as the finest
                                      quality sencha.  It has a fresh, vegetal aroma with a slightly sweet,
                                      nutty, almost creamy flavor.

                                      The infusion is a very light yellow-green color.  In fact, the thinner and
          lighter the infusion, the higher the quality of tea.  When
brewing Kukicha the water
          temperature should be 155F to  180F (70C to 80C) and steeped for one to three minutes,
          with one additional infusion at approximately 30-45 seconds.

          As always I advise you to experiment
          when brewing a tea for the first time,
          to find the right combination for your
          own personal taste.

          Next we move on to Karigane twig
          tea. Karigane, Karigane Cha, or
          Shiraore, also called "White Time," a
          poetic name given Karigane by the
          
Kyushu tea marketers for twig teas
          made regionally. Karigane also goes
          by Wild Goose or Wild Goose Song, so
          named for the wild geese perching to
          rest their wings on twigs floating in
          the ocean during their migration, is al-
          so made from the stems, leaves, and
          stalks left over from
gyokuro harvesting.

          Also grown in the ancient tea gardens in Uji and the surrounding area of Kyoto, gyokuro
          is a connoisseurs tea and it is one of Japan's most highly regarded.

          Both sencha used to make Kukicha, and gyokuro used to make Karigane are
shaded
          teas.  Approximately 21 days before harvesting, the very top grades of sencha and
          gyokuro are shaded over.

                                                           The shading of the tea bushes increases the chlorophyll
                                                           production by reducing the natural photosynthesis in the
                                                           leaves.  This changes the natural balance of caffeine,
                                                           sugars, and flavanols in the leaf, allowing the tea maker's
                                                           to possibly coax out added sweetness.

                                                           The lack of photosynthesis also increases the amount of
          another naturally occurring compound called theanine (or L-theanine), an amino acid
          believed to induce relaxation, as well as giving tea its fresh, vegetal flavors.  Theanine
          also reduces tannins, the compounds responsible for tea's astringency.
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Karigane also has a fresh green aroma that is light and sweet, and a bit more delicate
than Kukicha's nutty, roasted flavor. The infusion is a light yellow-green. You can possibly
get a weak second infusion, but much of the flavor is spent on the first brewing.

Sometimes sencha leaf is added when making Karigane, in which case it's called Karigane
Sencha.

Both of these healthy, delicious twig teas make for a nice, relaxing brew to sit down with and help unfold some of the
layers of a busy, hectic day and life.  
Enjoy.