Kukicha is a type of Japanese green tea that is made mostly or exclusively from twigs and stems. This stands in contrast to most teas (green or otherwise) which are made mostly from leaves and buds of the tea plant. Sometimes kukicha is referred to as kukicha tea, but the “tea” is redundant as “cha” means tea in Japanese.
Health benefits of kukicha relative to other green teas:
Kukicha has not been extensively studied for its health benefits, and there is not currently enough evidence to say conclusively whether it is more or less healthy than other Japanese green teas, or any other types of tea. Kukicha has a similar chemical profile to other Japanese green teas, and contains the same antioxidants, the catechins, so it is likely that the health benefits of kukicha are similar to other green teas.
Kukicha is often promoted as having less caffeine than other teas, for the simple reason that the stems and twigs of the tea plant are lower in caffeine than the leaves and buds. Other teas, such as bancha, which contain some stem, are also slightly lower in caffeine. However, the caffeine content of green tea varies quite a lot, and kukicha is no exception. Some kukicha contains a larger portion of leaf, and these teas generally tend to be more highly-caffeinated than the kukicha made exclusively from stems and twigs. One study that examined the caffeine content of various teas actually found one kukicha tested to be higher in caffeine relative to other green teas.
Flavor, aroma, and appearance of kukicha:
The flavor, aroma, and overall character of kukicha is quite similar to other Japanese green teas, especially bancha, but also sencha. Kukicha is often described as having a slightly more nutty or woody aroma, but the difference when compared to other Japanese teas is subtle.
Bancha tends to be more similar to kukicha because it often also contains some stem pieces. Kukicha often has slightly less of the vegetal and seaweedy qualities that some sencha has, but this factor is variable, and some kukicha has. The appearance of brewed kukicha that is made exclusively of stems and twigs tends to be clearer than sencha, and a lighter color, but kukicha that includes leaf can come out more cloudy and greenish, more typical for a Japanese green tea.
The best companies from which to buy kukicha are those that specialize in Japanese green teas. However, a number of tea companies with a broader catalog also offer one or two kukichas for sale. In western countries it can be hard to find kukicha in stores, so buying online will be the best option for most people.
Alex Zorach is the creator of RateTea, an interactive website where anyone can rate and review teas. This site has a database of teas classified by brand, style, and region, with a wealth of information about different varieties of tea. Visit this site to read reviews of kukicha – twig tea and locate sources of buying kukicha.