Kirishima Hōjicha Kukicha (霧島ほうじ茎茶) is a beautifully roasted organic green tea that consists almost purely of tea leaf stems. Expertly roasted, it produces a warming and highly satisfying liquor with a pleasantly roasted taste. Naturally low in caffeine, this is a perfect relaxation drink that is great in the evening or for those more susceptible to high caffeine content. This production is from tea leaf stems of mostly Yabukita cultivars plants that are sourced from a number of certified organic tea plantations located in Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture. We source this tea via a tea merchant specialising in rare Japanese teas and it is from early summer 2019 harvest.
This Kirishima Hōjicha Kukicha is a traditionally roasted green tea. Hōjicha (ほうじ茎), often also spelled Houjicha, was first produced in Kyoto in the 1920’s. The tea follows normal green tea processing but at the final stages it is exposed to high temperature, followed by a quick cooling phase. This imparts a characteristic roasted profile, at the same time lowering caffeine and catechin content. As catechin is responsible for astringency in tea, this results in a much mellower, non-astringent flavour that is hugely appealing.
Also this tea is a Kukicha (茎茶) tea. Unlike our award-winning Makinohara Kukicha, this Hōjicha Kukicha consists almost solely of stems that are extensively roasted. Kukicha has a much sweeter and less astringent flavour due to different chemical compounds found in the stems of the leaves. During production of sencha and other Japanese green teas, stems are separated and removed from the tea leaves. So as not to waste the stems (which make a great tea anyway!), the makers produce various type of kukicha. Some would be then still a mixture of sencha leaves and stems, while others would be almost exclusively left as ‘twig tea’. This ‘twig tea’, as it is sometimes known, is also known by other names, such as karigane (雁が音) or shiraore (白折) if made from stems of gyokuro production.
When visiting Kanazawa in Japan a couple of years ago, we got the chance to try another special tea, called Kaga bōcha (加賀棒茶). In this case bōcha (boucha) is another name for stem tea that is used in certain regions of Japan. Kaga bōcha is local to the area surrounding Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture – about 45 minutes away from Kanazawa. We were really taken aback by the smooth roasted and sweet flavours of this local speciality. Our version from Kirishima is really rather similar, although perhaps a bit more roasted, to the Kaga bōcha we tried. So we were extremely excited when we found this unusual roasted twig tea for our shop!
This Kirishima Hōjicha Kukicha organic green tea consists of dark roasted stems that produce an amber liquor with a comforting toasty aroma. The taste is light, mellow and creamy-smooth. The flavours are subtle but are dominated by the overall roasted, warming character. The roasting is definitely on the heavier side but this leads to a non-astringent taste that has no vegetal dryness or grassiness. The combination of roasting (resulting in lower caffeine and astringency) and usage of stems (naturally sweeter and lower astringency) makes this for a very easy-to-drink cup with plenty of sweetness running through the taste. The clean roasted flavours carry through the tasting to develop into fruity, cereal and lightly mineral notes. This tea has a good sweet base and tangier top notes that gives it a mouth watering quality.
It is best brewed at 80°C for around 3-4 minutes, with multiple infusions.