Unfortunately Tea Merchant is closing, but I was lucky enough to snag some heavily discounted teaware and the owner was nice enough to include a sample of this tea. According to the label Tea Merchant’s teas are both Fair Trade and Organic, although I could only find the organic symbol on the label, not the fair trade one. For those of you who don’t know Kukicha is a tea made from a blend of stems, stalks twigs and some leaves, I first encountered this type of tea by it’s slightly less used name (I blame Lupicia). Besides the name, there are two main types of Kukicha produced in Japan, Shiraore is made from Sencha and Karigane made from Gyokuro; although I should note that it is often hard to tell if Shiaore or Karigane is made with Sencha or Gyokuro leaves, or the unused stems, stalks and twigs are mixed in with lesser grades of tea.
It’s been a while since I had a proper Japanese green tea, so I was really excited to try this one. Immediately I noted the lovely shades of yellow and white in the stems/stalks and there are a couple brownish twigs throughout. This is a very lovely tea to watch while brewing.
I had two infusions with this tea, although I could have had a third I chose not to and I noticed the Tea Merchant decided not to have suggested brewing times and temperatures, while I trust my intuition I always like having the option of either trying the vendor’s suggestions or adjusting it to my tastes.
I started off brewing at 175 °F for two minutes and for my second I brewed at 180 °F for three minutes; ultimately both infusions were almost exactly the same. I noticed the roasted aroma, it is not as roasted as a houjicha, but there were slight chocolately notes to it. The taste was a mellow woodsy as well as being floral and having a slight unami edge. It feels very much like a roasted sencha, but sweeter than you would expect.
I enjoyed this tea, while I normally don’t enjoy tea made from the factory sweepings, I am fond of Kukichas, it is interesting that you don’t see much beyond the leaves and young stems being used in teas, but this Green Kukicha is quite economic; this type of tea is perfect for those who are on a budget can’t quite afford Sencha, or for those who like a roasted green tea.
(“Amazing” photography at http://rah-tea.blogspot.com/2014/10/tea-merchants-green-kukicha.html)