Kukicha is a true tea; that is to say it comes from Camelia sinensis or the tea plant. It comes from the same plant that gives us black tea, yellow tea, white tea and green tea. Kukicha is actually classified as a green tea but it differs from most in that instead of being made from the leaves it is actually made from various twig parts of the tea bush. Green tea has gotten much press in the last few years and its virtues are well known if not exaggerated. Whether or not green tea is a miracle drink remains to be seen but it is no less true that it is a rich source of antioxidants such as EGCG and other polyphenols that have been shown to be cell protective. Regardless, it is a delicious drink that is often uplifting and energizing—without that shaky caffeine high often experienced with other caffeinated beverages. Theories abound as to why this is and like others I am apt to believe that its relatively large quantity of L-Theanine, an amino acid with ‘calming’ effects counteracts the small amount of caffeine in a cup of the tea.
Typically I drink green tea in late spring and summer. Though the flavor profile varies greatly amongst types and styles of the tea, green tea is almost invariably light and clean and usually requires no added flavorings. The exception is Kukicha, whether roasted or unroasted it has a deeper flavor suggesting more elements of earth and soil, perhaps due to being made of the twigs and not the leaves. Unlike ‘normal’ green tea I like Kukicha with a dash of honey and a bit of cream. Those of you who follow my blog (or worse, my facebook) might be aware that I have a certain love (read: obsession) for cream. You might think this is just another excuse to add cream to something, but in this case at least I can truly say that Kukicha’s robust flavor stands well and is even enhanced by the addition.
Lately I’ve been drinking a lot of this too oft neglected green tea and, because it’s winter (and I love spices) I’ve been spicing it up. Below is a recipe for a nourishing and opening morning beverage. Filled with both warming and cooling aromatics it is a delicious way to say hello to the morning.
Spiced Kukicha Tea
For 1 cup
1 tsp Kukicha
½ tsp whole coriander
3-4 cardamom pods
Good pinch of rose petals
Grind the cardamom pods and coriander seeds together and fill a vessel with the kukicha and the herbs. Pour over water just under the boiling point and let steep a good 4 minutes. Strain the herbs and add a bit of ginger (or regular) honey and a splash of cream if desired. Enjoy!