Kukicha Green Tea by Aiya America

Steeping specs: 3 g 1 cup 175° 1.5 minutes

This one was a tea that I could not find on the company’s website, so please forgive me if I don’t steep it according to the ideal specifications. I kind of guessed a bit and I hope I didn’t steep it too hot. It turned out pretty well with the steeping specs I tried, but who knows what would happen with different steeping specs? (I didn’t have a large enough sample to really experiment.)

As it steeps I’m catching buttery, seaweedy fragrances. After steeping, the liquid isn’t nearly as clear as I would’ve expected. It’s cloudy and has what look like tiny T specks throughout the liquid, similar to matcha specks (?) and much smaller than the type of tea specks that normally escape from my tea strainer. So I’m thinking maybe this is an intentional feature of this tea and not a bug. It doesn’t seem to detract from the drinking experience at all and does enhance the tea’s strength.

The flavor is rich and full, with vegetal savory notes, not bitter, and only a little astringent. And it’s very fragrant, but not really floral– it’s more on the grassy side. Its flavor is not just vegetal, but savory in a smooth and buttery kind of way which creates a cohesive flavor profile.

This seems to be quite a strong green tea with plenty of flavor, yet without any unpleasant bitterness. It goes well with sugar too, but seems to be a somewhat less immersive experience somehow once the sugar has been added. Also, I notice the seaweedy notes more once sugar has been added.

This tea is great for when you want a strong, unflavored and non-floral green tea that’s more on the savory side and yet has a very strong presence of its own without any bitterness. (If you don’t like the tiny specks floating around your tea, I would recommend using a very fine steeping mesh or strainer.)

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Green
Where to Buy:  Aiya 

Kukicha literally means “stem tea” and is made from different varieties of tea stems. Aiya’s Kukicha is a blend of stems from Gyokuro and Sencha. Most of Kukicha available in the market is made by stems from 100% Sencha, however, Aiya’s Kukicha is adding more than 50% of Gyokuro stems for more natural sweetness and rich aroma

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Yamane-en: Sugabou, Gyokuro Karigane Houjicha Green Tea from Yunomi

Yamane-enKariganeHoujichaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Yunomi

Tea Description:

Stems of high grade tea is called karigane 雁音. By roasting these stems in an iron pot, it becomes Karigane Houjicha. This particular product uses gyokuro tea stems from Uji, Kyoto.

This karigane houjicha is roasted in an iron pot over strong heat. Only the surface of the stems are roasted, retaining the flavor of the tea itself, because the inner part of the stem is not roasted. Both the strong aroma and taste of tea can be enjoyed.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I first read the name on the package of tea, I was overwhelmed by the name alone. What did any of that mean? The only word I understood was gyokuro and houjicha. I am always into trying a houjicha green tea from Yunomi.

By doing a little deciphering and careful read through the insightful description was I able to discern with little effort what all it meant. Karigane is a form of kukicha, which is stick tea, basically. But the thing about Karigane is that it is a cut above your average run of the mill kukicha because it is made from high grade teas, such as gyokuro. leave it to the Japanese to make the most out of everything they are given! After a good and strong roasting in an iron pot, the core of the tea is still intact, and the delicate nuanced sticks blending together with the roasted flavor I know and love.

The dry leaves (or should I say sticks?) looks quite unlike any other houjicha that I have ever seen. The leaves are a light straw gold. The roasted and slightly smoky aroma reached my nose and I was hooked. Steeping the leaves in my favorite kyusu revealed a comforting toasted cup of roasty goodness. There were some nice coffee notes hidden there somewhere, and it complimented everything in a way that was unsurprisingly lovely.

I have had plenty of houjicha in my time, everything from yama moto yama teabags and flavored kit kats to freshly fired bancha from a cousin on their latest trip and this really is the best I’ve ever had. I sense that this could be that it is from karigane, and I don’t think I’ve had karigane in roasted form in the past. The aftertaste this leaves is amazing. A mix of refreshing roasted sweetness with a slight smoke note at the end. As it cooled, it became sweeter.

I took this tea in a thermos for my most recent hike, and it was the perfect end note to a nice, quiet hike. I was lucky enough to miss the snowstorm during the hike, and sitting in the car and warming up to a big steaming mug of this tea really just hit the spot.

Shimizu-En Kukicha Tea from Hisabo Tea

kukichaHisaboTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Hisabo – this special link will not only sign you up for their newsletter but also qualify you for special pricing for our readers!  By subscribing to the newsletter, you can get in on their limited edition teas!

Tea Description:

“A hug in a cup” is one way I’ve heard Kukicha described. Warm, delicate, sweet, comfortable. A cup that’s likely to take your heart along with your senses. It certainly did for the husband of Yumiko, the 17th generation daughter of the family who runs Shimizu-en. In Japanese tradition, it’s usually the wife that goes and joins the husband’s business, but in this case the quality of the tea was too much to leave (sorry for the pun). 

In fact, it’s a minor miracle we are even able to bring Shimizu-en to you. The company has no website, no distribution, nothing. They just have a small shop in front of the tea garden and they sell out every year. The tea has been recognized multiple times nationally—no small feat for a company that only employs family members and picks most of its entire plantation by hand.

Kukicha is a very unique kind of tea, made from the stems and twigs of the tea plants. What began as ruthless Japanese efficiency has led to a tasting experience that had the entire Hisabo team saying ‘Wow’. This tea is a hands-down winner. Delicate and floral on the nose, once you take a sip you’ll taste a sweetness quite unlike anything you’ve had before. It will have you going back and trying different brewing times just to tweak the exact amount of sweet and grassy that you want. And it will definitely take your heart.

Taster’s Review:

Hisabo is a new-to-me tea company and they are unlike any other tea company I’ve yet to encounter!  They don’t actually sell teas on their website the way most online tea companies do.  Instead, they offer their limited selection of teas to their customers via email.  To get in on their offers, you need to subscribe to their newsletter.  (This link will also give you a special discount that is available only to our readers!)

Well, here, I’ll let you hear it from them:

Hisabo is a little different from most tea websites in that we don’t sell tea directly on our site.  We currently only sell through emails sent to people subscribed to our mailing list.  We’re also launching a subscription service where people can ‘pre-buy’ the teas we sell at a discount to ‘normal’ price.  In short: we send subscribers an email with a description of the tea, the story and pictures of the farm where it came from, as well as tasting notes.

That’s how they described it to me in the email they sent me when I asked them about this tea and where it was on their website.  According to the emailed newsletter regarding this Kukicha, they do still have some of it left, so if you’re interested in it, contact them quickly!

kukichaHisabo1The tea is packaged in 50g foil lined pouches with beautiful Asian calligraphy on the package.  The outer design looks a lot like a block collage of Asian papers.  It’s beautiful!

Inside these beautiful packages is the good stuff.  The dry leaf smells a little like freshly cut grass (and it looks a little like it too!) with sweet, warm nutty top notes.  I steeped this tea as recommended by Hisabo:  160°F for 30 – 60 seconds.  I opted for the 60 seconds, and I scooped 2 bamboo scoops of the tea and put it into the basket of my Breville One-Touch tea maker and poured 500ml of freshly filtered water into the jug.  Then I let the tea maker do its thing and about 2 minutes later, I had a teapot of delicious tea!

It is a light and refreshing cup of tea.  I like it served hot but it would also be tasty iced.  As the weather is getting a little cooler now, I’m enjoying more hot teas (happily!) and while this tea has a fresh taste to it, the warm, nutty flavors of it are very autumnal to me.  It reminds me of the flavor of freshly roasted chestnuts together with a subtle grassy note in the background.

The thoughts this tea evokes is a little bit of summer still hanging on now that autumn has arrived.

It’s a wonderful cup of tea.  (It resteeps well too!)  I like this tea and I like the idea behind this company.  Rather than having a bunch of tea in inventory waiting for people to buy it, they only offer you the tea when they receive it and it’s the freshest tea that’s available.  Very cool!

And if that’s not enough incentive to check out Hisabo … their customer service is top-notch!  They are very friendly and helpful and quick to respond to inquiries.  When you check them out, tell them that the SororiTea Sisters sent you!

Organic Kukicha Green Tea from Aiya

KukichaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Aiya

Tea Description:

Nothing is wasted as the stems are thoroughly removed from organically grown Gyokuro and Sencha. Not only will you enjoy the sweet aroma and crisp flavor with refreshing aftertaste, you will also be drinking the most environmentally friendly tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Having previously tried and reviewed Aiya’s conventionally grown Kukicha – and loving that – I was pretty sure I’d like this Organic Kukicha Green Tea from Aiya as well.   I have enough confidence in this company to know that whatever I try from them, I’m probably going to like.  All the teas I’ve tried from them thus far have been stellar.

And this is a REALLY good Kukicha.  It might very well be the best Kukicha that I’ve tried to date.  It has a really fresh, lush taste to it.  It tastes to me like it was just picked!  Not that I’ve had experience with “just picked” tea, so when I say this, I mean to say that the flavor tastes extraordinarily fresh.

The aroma of the dry leaf reminds me of the first grass cutting in spring.  After a long, cold winter, the new buds of grass offer such a fresh, sweet fragrance, and after that first mowing … the air is so exhilarating!  That’s what I experienced when I opened my package of this tea.  The bouquet does taper after brewing, but I can still smell some of that fresh, grassy scent.

I love the flavor of this.  It tastes so vibrant and yet it casts a calming effect over me as I sip it.  It is a very relaxing tea to drink.  It tastes light, sweet, and grassy, and it has a slightly astringent tail.  Similarly to the previously reviewed Kukicha from Aiya, I find this to be more savory than sweet.

However, unlike the previously reviewed Kukicha, I notice fewer nutty tones here and more floral and even some fruity tones to this.  The fruit and flower notes are somewhat distant and do not intrude upon the sweet yet savory grassy tones, instead, they peek through the grass and hint at their flavors, teasing the palate.

It is very refreshing as it washes over the palate.  I can feel my palate feeling renewed as I sip this.  It’s an excellent kukicha – and I love that its organic!

Kukicha Green Tea from Aiya

KukichaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Aiya

Tea Description:

Kukicha literally means “stem tea” and is made from different varieties of tea stems. Aiya’s Kukicha is a blend of stems from Gyokuro and Sencha. Most of Kukicha available in the market is made by stems from 100% Sencha, however, Aiya’s Kukicha is adding more than 50% of Gyokuro stems for more natural sweetness and rich aroma.

Taster’s Review:

I fell in love with this Kukicha Green Tea from Aiya as I was pouring the liquid into my teacup … the aroma brought to mind freshly steamed spinach.  Perhaps I was just hungry, but something about that scent just made me smile (not to mention salivate!)

The flavor is not quite as vegetative as the fragrance suggests.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m loving it any less … because I really am enjoying this cuppa.  It has a sweet, nutty flavor that is comforting yet refreshing.  The taste is also vegetative, and I’m finding the vegetal notes to be more savory than sweet … offering a pleasing contrast to the sweet notes from the nutty taste.  As I sip this, I am reflecting over some other Kukicha experiences I’ve had, and I’m realizing that this is indeed a sweeter Kukicha than the others that I’ve tried.

The texture is light and smooth, although as I continue to sip, I notice more of a brothy texture develop as the tea washes over my palate.  The texture develops on the tongue in a very enjoyable and satisfying way.

I enjoyed this hot, but I noticed it was equally as tasty as the tea cooled, making this a nice change-up from the typical iced tea choice.  This Kukicha is one of the better ones I’ve tried – of course, that comes as no surprise to me, as Aiya always manages to deliver top notch Japanese teas!