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

          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.

arigane 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

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.