Although originally considered the “peasant tea” of Japan, kukicha, or stem-and-twig tea, is growing in popularity in the Western world. In Uji, Japan, tea farmers made this tea from parts of the tea plant that were left over after the expensive buds and leaves were sold. The farmers drank these stems and twigs after sun-drying them, storing them for a few years, and cutting them to specified lengths.
Considering its ingredients, it is not surprising that kukicha has a slightly woodsy taste – the twigs and stems offering an experience like no other tea. Do not be afraid – kukicha is extremely palatable with a nutty taste reminiscent of a forested fairyland. If drinking a twig does not sound very appetizing, remind yourself that all teas are made from some part of a plant. Think of this type of tea as a novelty comparable to escargot, or another Japanese specialty, fugu (or puffer fish). The difference between kukicha and fugu is that you won’t risk your life by drinking the tea, as you might by eating the fish.
Not only is kukicha delicious, but it provides numerous health benefits as well. For instance, if you are interested in learning more about macrobiotics, kukicha is a worthwhile beverage to research. Kukicha may help balance the body’s acid levels, proving to be significantly important in the macrobiotic emphasis on balance. Similarly, this stem-and-leaf tea provides copper, manganese, zinc, calcium, and selenium, as well as Vitamins A, B, and C. Like green tea, kukicha contains catechins – or powerful antioxidants – which help fight cancer.
To get the full benefits of kukicha tea, prepare it with hot – not boiling – water and steep it for a maximum of three minutes. Depending on your preference, enjoy it as a cold or hot beverage.