The Ultimate Guide to Kaga-Boucha (2022)

The origin of the twig-based, high-end Houjicha Japanese tea.

This article was last modified December 19th, 2021. by Yuki

Kagaboucha tea in a cup

Though largely unknown outside of Japan - the Kaga-Boucha is one of the most famous area brands of Japanese tea inside Japan!

In this article we'll go over everything you need to know about this magnificent variation of Houjicha.

What is Kaga-Boucha?

If you've ever been to the beautiful city of Kanazawa (and by the way you should definitely stop by this area if you're making a trip to Japan!), you may have already tried this tea. It's the standard tea to drink in the area.
Manufactured in Kanazawa and other parts of the Ishikawa Prefecture, the Kaga-Boucha is an extremely famous and popular tea known throughout Japan.
The tea leaves look like this.
The first thing that stands out is that they don't actually look like leaves. They look more like twigs - which they are!
The term "Boucha" from the name "Kaga-Boucha" means "Twig Tea" in Japanese.
As "Kaga" is the name of the area, "Kaga-Boucha" directly translates to "Twig tea from the Kaga area".
Kaga Boucha written in Japanese

"Kaga-Boucha" written in Japanese

You'll probably notice the brownish color as well. This is because the Kaga-Boucha is a type of Houjicha.
After harvest and the oxidization process of the normal green twigs, they will be roasted until they turn into this color.
Unlike the leaves, the twigs and stems are thicker and requires more heat to roast. Stronger heat will be applied to quickly roast and extract the rich aroma of the Houjicha - the aroma levels end up much stronger than normal.
The Kaga-Boucha is a type of Houijcha which is made by roasting twig tea. The final product is a delightful, light tasting tea with a rich roast scent.
Kaga-Boucha Tea

A cup of Kaga-Boucha tea

This Kaga-Boucha comes in different names. "Kagabo", "Bocha" and "Kagacha" are some common ways this tea is addressed. If you ever drop by Ishikawa prefecture, these are definitely names to keep a look out.

What is the secret behind the strong aroma?

The secret behind the strong aroma is that they use twig tea. By roasting the twigs, the aroma end up being much higher than when you roast just normal leaves.
Let's take the substance Pyrazine for example.
Pyrazine is the main relaxation substance contained in Houjicha. This substance is responsible for the distinct aroma smell of the Houjicha. Research shows this substance is 1.5 times higher in the twig tea based Houjicha as compared to leaf based Houjicha. (This was the result of an experiment using the same plant)
There are other aroma emitting substances outside of Pyrazine in this tea as well. Substances such as Geraniol and Linalool, which provide the floral like scent with relaxation effect - are found 4 times higher in twig based Houjicha as compared to leaf based Houjicha.
On top of this, the modern "Kaga-Boucha" is a brand for high quality tea. Many of the products use Ichibancha or Shincha for their tea.
This means that this is tea of significantly high nutrients and taste, as they are produced from the first harvesting period of the year. This adds to the great aroma experience of the tea.
In summary, the aroma is so strong because they use nutrient rich twigs - which is the perfect ingredient for making high-aroma Houjicha.

How is Kaga-Boucha Made?

Actually, the tea plants itself is not grown in the area. The ingredients of Kaga-Boucha is usually imported from other prefectures in Japan.
The area used to be have many tea farms, but currently there are only 3 Hectars of farmland in Ishikawa prefecture. Being in a relatively northern area of Japan, the farming conditions may not be as ideal as some of the other areas of Japan such as Yame, Uji, or Shizuoka.
The Kaga-Boucha producers in Ishikawa prefecture will carefully select and import the ingredient twigs from other prefectures.
Once they've done that, several different methodologies and different heat levels (deep roast to light roast) are employed to roast and add variations to the taste.
The Kaga-Boucha is said to have 300 different aroma substances, and the differences in the methodologies will highlight different parts of the scent. As each manufacturer has different methodologies, they also have different tastes.
Trying different tastes from different manufacturers is another way to enjoy this fantastic tea.

What is the true definition of Kaga-Boucha?

You may wonder - if the tea isn't actually grown in Ishikawa prefecture, what exactly is the definition of Kaga-Boucha?
Where better to look than the registered trademark!
According to the registered trademark, the definition of Kaga-Boucha is as follows.
Houjicha Manufactured using Kukicha (twig tea) within Ishikawa prefecture, created by the traditional methodology of the Kaga area.
The tea ingredients can be cultivated outside of Ishikawa. As long as the production process is done within Ishikawa prefecture using the traditional style, it will be considered a Kaga-Boucha.

How did Kaga-Boucha begin? History of Kaga-boucha

Tea manufacturing in the Kanazawa area started back in the Edo period (1603 - 1868). They inherited the skills from Uji and started to produce Sencha in that area.
The Kaga-Bocha is said to have been invented in the Meiji era. In 1902, Shinbei Hayashiya invented this new style of tea in Kanazawa.
Back then, tea was an expensive product not accessible to commoners. Tea would mainly be exported overseas at high prices.
In pursuit of an inexpensive alternaitve, Shinbei researched ways to re-utilize the twigs of the tea that were not used for tea back then. He invented Kaga-Bocha, which then became an instant hit.
He shared how to produce this tea - and Kaga-Boucha spread across the prefecture. This is the beginning of this tea.
Until then they used to throw away the stems and twigs of the leaves of the Nibancha (tea picked in the second harvesting season of the year) and later, but this invention made them and roast it to become a type of Houjicha.
As the Kaga-Boucha evolved to suit different preferences, they started using the twigs and stems of the highest quality Ichibancha, or tea picked in the first harvesting season of the year, allowing for a light but highly sophisticated taste.

The Kaga-Bocha day

You might think of November 11th as the day of the Singles day sale. Well, November 11th is actually also named the "Kaga-Boucha" day as well! (This is the reason why we usually do a Kaga-Boucha sale for 11.11!)
When you serve tea, sometimes you might find the twig going into your chawan or tea cup. This happens because the twig can sometimes go through the holes of the strainer.
In Japanese culture, if you happen to find a twig standing upward in your chawan it is a sign of good luck. The date 11/11 resembles several Twigs standing up - which is perhaps an incredibly auspicious sign.
Because of this, the Ishikawa Tea Commercial Industry Cooperative set this as a special day to celebrate Kaga Boucha.
Why not try some Kaga-Boucha on this day?


Kaga-Boucha is a rare tea outside of Japan and not exactly easy to access. Even for us as a teashop, it's been a struggle to get stock. After some hard work, I'm very happy and proud that we've been able to secure stock and have Kaga-Boucha in our online shop.
Please do stop by and take a look!


Should I brew Kaga-Boucha the same way I brew Houjicha?

Yes. As Kaga-Boucha is a type of Houjicha, you should brew it in the exact same way.

Use Boiling water and brew for 30 seconds. You can find detailed instructions on how to brew Houjicha here.

Can I cold-brew Kaga-Boucha?

Yes. As Kaga-Boucha is a high quality Houjicha, it would work very well as a cold-brew tea also.

You can find instructions on how to brew cold-brew Houjicha here. You can follow the same steps when you use Kaga-Boucha.

Author Yuki


Yuki is the Editor-in-Chief AND Community Manager at Tealife. He bleeds Japanese Tea and loves being a part of the Japanese Tea journey of others. Writes, does events, conducts tasting sessions, drinks, drinks and drinks tea! Easily accessible - hit him up on whatsapp (+65) 85882980.