Kirishima Sencha Kukicha (霧島煎茶茎茶) is an unusual green tea from Japan that is made from fine sencha tea leaves as well as stems and stalks that are removed during the production of sencha. Because of the presence of the tea leaf stems, it is also known as ‘twig tea’. The addition of the parts of a tea plant that are normally excluded from tea production results in a unique sweet yet grassy flavour that is strangely satisfying and a little addictive.
This green tea comes from the foothills of Mount Kirishima in Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyūshū. It is grown at an altitude of around 400m above sea level. As Kyūshū is the most southwesterly island of the Japanese four main islands, it enjoys a rather mild climate. But it can still get cold in the highlands, which are covered in snow in the winter months. The seasonality of the region requires frost hardy cultivars to be used, which tend to grow leaves slower, resulting in more flavoursome teas.
Kirishima Sencha Kukicha is a mixture of dark green sencha leaves and lighter yellow stalk pieces that are the stems. The presence of the stems results in a flavour that is a little different to the usual Japanese green teas, while also being naturally lower in caffeine. The liquor is a slightly cloudy yellow and green colour with a soft vegetal and savoury fragrance. The flavour is gently sweet with toasty vegetal notes. We find that this tea is quite multilayered in flavour! It starts with vegetal umami notes reminiscent of nori seaweed, which are closely followed by somewhat fruity middle notes. It is then topped off by a gently sweet and floral aftertaste.
It is best brewed at 70°C for 1-2 minutes, with multiple infusions. This particular Kirishima Sencha Kukicha green tea is also very low in astringency so you can try brewing it for longer (3-4 minutes) than normal with green tea. The resulting flavour will be sweeter and more intense.