Kukicha is a unique looking tea in that it contains stems and stalks from the production of Sencha. This stem tea has a unique aroma, natural sweetness, and contains a high theanine (amino acid) level which promotes calmness.

What is Kukicha?

kukicha"Kuki" means stem, twig or stalk and "cha" is tea.
After picking the leaves, the farmer makes a tea called Aracha. Aracha means rough tea. Aracha is made up of irregular shaped leaves, small broken leaves and stems. Aracha is not a finished tea nor is it worth selling to consumers. At a re-manufacturing factory like the one at Den's parent company, Shirakata-Denshiro Shoten, Aracha is processed into beautiful Sencha by sifting, dividing sizes, taking out stems and broken leaves, etc.
So Kukicha can be considered as a secondary product of Sencha. (Other secondary products are Mecha and Konacha more about these later.) It was once traded very cheaply because the Japanese were mostly interested in Sencha and did not pay attention to Kukicha. However they discovered Kukicha's unique mellow and Umami flavor and it is now as valued as Sencha.

Which part of bush is used for Kukicha?

The picture on the right shows which part of the plant can be used for Kukicha. When tea leaves are picked, stems are picked at the same time. While the good tea leaves are steamed, rolled, kneaded and dried, the stems and many torn or broken tea leaves are separated culled from the good tea.

How Kuki (stems) are separated?

There are two steps to take stems out of the Aracha:

No.1 Denbo - Statistic electricity drum machine
Denbo means an electrical stick. The tea leaves pass through a rolling drum containing high voltage electricity. Since stems are drier, the drum can easily pick them up by static electricity. The tea leaves which contain more moisture, pass through since they don't stick to the drum.

No. 2 Shikibetsu - Color sort machine
Shikibetsu means dividing by color. This machine has many slots that the tea passes through. At the bottom, a color sensor recognizes the color of the tea leaf. If the color is pale, the sensor blows a stream of air to hit the pale colored stems while the green tea passes through. Isn't it amazing?

Exceptional flavor

Comparing the stem and the leaf, stems contain more amounts of "theanin" (a factor of Umami), "Pyrazine" (an aromatic organic compound) and "geraniol linalool". (a flowery or sweet aroma) Theanine in the tea leaf turns to tannin (a factor of bitterness) by photosynthesis caused by sunshine. However photosynthesis does not happen to the stems even under sunshine, so theanine remains in the stem resulting a pure Umami taste.

What determines the quality of Kukicha?

The quality of Kukicha simply depends on the quality of Sencha, Gyokuro or Bancha that produced the stems. If Kukicha was processed from good quality teas then the quality of the Kukicha is good too.

What is Roasted Kukicha?

Roasted Kukicha has become a popular tea like Houji Kukicha or Karigane Houjicha. The roasting eliminates the grassy flavor that some people don't like while good Umami is left. This robust and Umami harmony are specially appreciated at high end Japanese restaurants in Japan. Houji-Kukicha is often served in traditional Japanese restaurant between or after meals to refresh your pallet.

The roasting technique, however, is not as simple as roasting with high heat. In roasting Kukicha, a radiant heat technique is used which expands the green tea stem into a longer and fatter shape. This makes its aroma elegant and its flavor sweet.


Brewing is easy and you can enjoy the good flavor with a casual brewing technique. Kukicha contains high amount of theanine with lower amount of tannin, so even if you brew it with high temperature water, it won't be bitter. We recommend 180F water and a steeping time of about 60 seconds to get a robust aroma and flavor.

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