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The Power of Tea Twigs and Stems: Kukicha Tea Benefits

written by: BStone • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/17/2011

Little known kukicha tea, also known as bancha twig tea or winter tea, is just like green tea, an incredibly healthy derivative of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Learn all about kukicha tea health benefits.

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    What Is Kukicha Twig Tea?

    Kukicha is made from the twigs, stems and coarse leaves of the tea tree, just as green, black and oolong tea is a product of the leaves, and white tea is made from the buds. In Uji Japan, the old tea district located between the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto, tea farmers would make kukicha for themselves after selling the more valuable leaves and buds. They developed a precise method for creating this 'peasant's drink'.

    Like sencha green tea, there are myriad health benefits of kukicha tea. It is made by first steaming the harvested plant. The twigs are sun dried and then stored in paper bags for two to three years, allowing the flavor to develop. Following the aging process, they are cut to specific lengths, and then grouped according to their grade. Each grade is roasted for different durations and temperatures in order to end with the consistent desired taste of kukicha twig tea - light, nutty and slightly creamy.

    In Japan, kukicha still carries the stigma of a poor man's beverage, but in the West, it has been embraced for its remarkable ability to stabilize health and promote longevity. George Ohsawa, the founder of macrobiotics, and Michio Kushi, one of his disciples, popularized the drink, spreading the knowledge of the natural kukicha tea benefits. It plays a central role in the macrobiotic diet, which is based on the belief that balance is the key to optimum well-being. The macrobiotic diet consists of mostly whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes and seaweed, with kukicha as one of the recommended beverages.

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    Health Properties of Twig Tea

    Kukicha tea benefits are numerous and potentially profound. Its primary impact lies in its alkalizing abilities; kukicha tea helps to alkalize the body's fluids and tissue, thereby balancing acidity levels and preventing disease. Most people have too much acid in their body, caused by a diet rich in acid-forming foods, such as meat, eggs, dairy products, white flour, sugar and artificial sweeteners; and, too few alkaline foods, which include fresh vegetables and most fruits. Even a mild case of acidosis can, over time, manifest in the form of cardiovascular problems, difficulty losing weight, bladder or kidney trouble, a weak immune system, premature aging, joint and bone problems and fatigue. This is because an acidic body has to borrow buffering minerals, such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, from the bones and vital organs. These nutrients are then used to neutralize acid and remove it from the body, but are unable to complete their normal functions. Also, as a response to an overabundance of acid, the body conserves fat in order to trap and protect itself, leading to unnecessary weight gain.

    Kukicha twig tea has the strongest alkalizing ability of any Japanese tea. It is also packed with nutrients. A cup of twig tea is a good source of calcium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese and fluoride. It is also a rich source of B-complex vitamins, vitamin C and A, flavonoids and the same polyphenols that have made green tea known as a cancer-fighting food, catechins.

    Catechins act as powerful antioxidants, minimizing the effect of free radicals before they have a chance to damage other cells. One catechin in particular, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has twenty-five to one hundred times the antioxidant capability of vitamins C and E, which are the primary water-soluble and fat-soluble antioxidants. Research has shown that EGCG may not only prevent cancer, but also suppress tumor growth, and block enzymes which help to spread cancer within cells. Many have claimed eating a macrobiotic diet, including kukicha twig tea is a cure for some cancers. Although there is no scientific evidence of this, George Ohsawa may be correct - kukicha tea is one of the most balancing beverages, and therefore is an integral part of optimal health.

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    Drinking Kukicha Twig Tea

    Like green tea, twig tea should be made with hot, not boiling water. Allow boiled water to cool, then steep the tea for up to three minutes. Unlike black tea, kukicha has almost no caffeine - approximately 10 percent the amount of a cup of coffee. It can be enjoyed throughout the day without the adverse effects of caffeine. Brewed kukicha can also be mixed with apple juice and served cold.

    Despite the positive claims of the health benefits of kukicha tea, almost no research has been done at this point. Perhaps drinking twig tea will add years to your life; maybe it can slow, if not cure some cancers. Regardless if it is a miracle drink or not, it remains a highly beneficial and enjoyable drink.

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