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The Ultimate Guide to Kukicha and Karigane [2022]

The tea made from the twigs of the tea tree - "Twig tea"

This article was last modified Jun 7th, 2022. by Yuki

If you're thinking that Kukicha doesn't look like it's made from tea leaves - well, you're correct! They're made from the small stems, stalks and twigs of the green tea leaves. It's also a popular tea as it slightly changes the taste. We'll go over everything you need to know about this really interesting tea.


Introduction - What's Kukicha? What's Karigane?

Just in case you haven't seen it before, Kukicha looks like this!

leaves of Karigane Tea

Yes, it has the normal green tea leaves like the Sencha or the Gyokuro, but you can see it also contains some light-green colored strips as well. These are small stems, stalks and twigs of the green tea leaves, and is what makes this tea the "Kukicha".

This is how is looks written in Japanese.

It's actually a great candidate for your "everyday Japanese Tea". Kukicha serves as a less astringent option to the normal sencha. It is characterized with higher levels of Theanine (an amino acid in green tea), a revitalizing fresh aroma, and stronger umami with a less astringent taste.
Since the parts of the tea leaves used for Kukicha are different from other green tea, you may find the taste to be quite fresh and unique. Kukicha is popular in Japan for this reason, and also because it is relatively economically friendly as well.
When you're looking for Kukicha, look for the name Karigane. This is a special name reserved for the highest quality of Kukicha. Usually Karigane will use the stems, stalks and twigs of the tea leaves used for producing Gyokuro, resulting in a fresher aroma and a more defined umami taste.
Let's take a deeper look into the wonders of Kukicha.

The Taste of Kukicha

As you may have guessed, since Kukicha use the twigs and stems of the tea leaf rather than the leaf itself, the taste is a little bit different.
There are higher levels of Theanine contained in the twigs and stems as compared to leaves. Since these amino-acids are the source of the umami taste, this results in Kukicha having a higher level of umami in comparison to other teas.
The level of Catechin is different too - it tends to be less. Since Catechin is the astringency agent - it reduces the astringent and bitter taste of the tea, resulting in a nice balanced green tea you can enjoy on a daily basis.
The name Kukicha is a very general term, and the actual taste rating will largely differ depending on the type of leaves the Kukicha will use.
For example, the taste of kukicha from of the stems from Fukamushi-sencha, will be higher in umami than a normal Sencha. The umami taste of the Kukicha produced from leaves used for Gyokuro will be even higher.
Another characteristic of Kukicha is that the taste will reduce dramatically on the second infusion. When you're having Kukicha, make sure to enjoy your first cup!

Health Benefits of Kukicha

Since Kukicha is also a type of green tea, you will enjoy the usual health benefits of other green tea. This includes being able to consume all the rich nutrients included in green tea.
Perhaps the most important nutrient would be Catechin. Catechin is a type of poly-phenol and has a wide range of health benefits, including anti-oxidation. This means that the Catechin will keep your body's cells young and strong, which is essentially the base foundation for the health of all of us. Compared to other famous antioxidants such as Vitamin C or E, Catechin is said to have more than 10 times the anti-oxidation effects! You can read more in detail about this and other health benefits of Japanese green tea here.
One difference of Kukicha as compared to other Japanese green tea, is that it contains relatively higher level of Theanine and a lower level of Catechin.
Theanine is a type of amino acid that has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure, relaxation, and protection of neuronal cells. It is also proven to reduce the stimulating effect of the Caffeine that green tea possesses. This is why Japanese green tea is said to be much healthier than other caffeine drinks - it's such a better option than coffee!
Theanine turns into Catechin with sunlight, but since the stems and twigs do not face the sunlight as much as the leaves, the high level of Theanine still remain. As a matter of fact, Theanine is found double the amount in the stems and twigs as compared to in leaves. You can read more about the effects of Theanine and other nutrients contained in Japanese green tea here.

Other names of Kukicha

Karigane / Shiraore

Karigane has historically been the name of Kukicha made from leaves used for Gyokuro green tea. Gyokuro green tea leaves are shaded from the sun around 20 days before the leaves are picked, containing the astringent taste and maximizing the umami.

However, these days the term Karigane has become diverse, and is also used for any Kukicha of high quality. Depending on the location of manufacturing, Karigane is also called Shiraore.


Especially famous in the Kanazawa Area of Ishikawa Prefecture, boucha is a type kukicha made by roasting the stems until they become a brownish-red color. This is similar to how Houjicha is made, except that the parts of the tea plant being used is different. The end result is a gentle aroma coming from the roasted leaves.

Roasted kukicha would look like this.


Although in Tealife SG we call this tea "kukicha", they are also sometimes called "Twig Tea" "Stalk Tea" or "Stem Tea".

How best to enjoy Kikucha?

Kukicha (Normal Grade)


2 servings

Water (ml)

200 ml

Leaves (g)


Leaves (roughly in teaspoons)

4 tsp

Temperature (Celsius)


Brewing time (Seconds)

30 seconds

Instructions on how to brew Kukicha

Water temperature

Use 2 teaspoons (4g) of leaves for 200 ml of water. 70 - 80 degrees Celsius is the ideal temperature for infusing kukicha. Keeping the temperature relatively low will reduce the astringent and bitter taste, keeping the emphasis on the taste on the umami. Make sure you check the package instructions as well, as this will differ depending on the quality of the kukicha you have.
It is recommended that the water is first boiled so that it reaches 100 degrees. From there, every one to two minutes of wait will lower the temperature by about 5 degrees. Use this calculation to hit the best temperature to make Kukicha.

A cup of Kukicha

Water hardness

Soft water with hardness of between 30 to 80 is said to be the best for extracting the taste and aroma of green tea. The tap water in Singapore is "moderately soft", which makes it perfect for Japanese Tea.

How is it made? (Manufacturing Method)

Kukicha is basically a bi-product of the manufacturing process of other green tea.
In the manufacturing process of green tea, the leaves are separated from the stems, stalks and twigs.
While the leaves are called "Honcha" or "Shiage-cha", and proceed to become the likes of Sencha, Fukamushi-Sencha, Gyokuro, the remaining twigs and stems - called the "Demono" - are used to become Kukicha.
As you can see, actually the demono is quite rare. For the Kukicha, only 5% can be extracted from the crude tea.
Demono also consist of other particles as well, such as small buds and powder. The twigs and stems are separated from these particles, and are processed into "Kukicha". The small buds and powder will not be wasted either, as they will be processed into different type of tea called "Mecha" and "Konacha" respectively.


At the end of the day, the Kukicha is a unique and a nicely balanced green tea. They are a great candidate for your everyday use, especially by mixing it in a routine with your other type of teas.


Which part are the leaves and which part are the stems?

A: The Kukicha is usually mixed with either the Sencha or the Gyokuro. The picture above is a Karigane tea from Uji kyoto. The light green sticks shown in the photo are the stems. The darker green are the leaves.

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.