A Comprehensive Guide to Kabusecha

Kabuse tea (かぶせ茶), also known as kabusecha, is a type of Japanese tea leaf. The name “kabuseru” translates to “to cover or place on top,” referring to the practice of draping a porous material over the tea plant during the production of young leaves. This covering process lasts from 2-25 days and creates a unique flavor profile that sets kabuse tea apart from other green teas.

While kabuse tea is typically processed into a green tea, it can also be used to create oolong or black tea. Kabuse tea is considered a high-quality tea and is one of the three most expensive Japanese green teas, along with gyokuro and matcha.

Shade-grown tea leaves, like those used in kabuse tea, produce superior quality green tea with a distinct “covered aroma” known as “ooika” in Japanese. The covering process allows for the accumulation of theanine and other amino acids that contribute to the tea’s unique flavor. Kabuse tea is shaded for a shorter period than gyokuro and is sometimes referred to as shade-grown sencha.

Kabuse tea was created to mimic the shading effect of the tanakake tea process used in the cultivation of tencha, the base for matcha. While the covering process can be distressing for the plant and may result in damage or disease if not applied and maintained with proper care, it is essential to producing high-quality kabuse tea.

In studies, kabuse-cha was found to contain large quantities of ionone series compounds, which differ from those found in sencha grown in an open field. Kabuse tea is a delicate and flavorful tea with a unique taste that is worth exploring for tea enthusiasts looking for a high-quality Japanese green tea experience.

Aracha (荒茶); Bancha (番茶); yokuro (玉露); Kabusecha (かぶせ茶); Kukicha (茎茶); Shincha (新茶)

Name Origin

Kabuse-cha derives its name from the Japanese word “kabuse”, which means “covering”. This refers to the method of cultivating the tea, where the leaves are covered and shaded from the sun.

Understanding the Differences between Kabusecha and Gyokuro Tea

Kabusecha, sencha, and gyokuro all undergo the same processing method. However, the difference between them lies in the cultivation process.

Like gyokuro, kabusecha is a shaded tea, but to a lesser extent. While gyokuro’s tea leaves are shielded from sunlight for at least 20 days, kabusecha is shaded for 1 week to 10 days.

Additionally, the shading process for kabusecha is different from gyokuro. For gyokuro, the entire tea field is shaded, whereas for kabusecha, only the tea plant itself is covered.

The percentage of shading also varies, with kabusecha blocking around 50% of light, while gyokuro blocks 70% to 90%.

It’s important to note that the shading time and percentage vary by region. However, a general rule of thumb is that any tea that isn’t shaded for at least 3 weeks isn’t considered gyokuro.

Brewing Kabusecha

To prepare kabusecha tea, begin by boiling water in a tea kettle. Once the water has boiled, pour it into a kyusu, a Japanese teapot. Next, pour the water from the kyusu into small cups, using around 20 ml per cup. Discard any remaining water.

Add 3 grams of kabusecha tea leaves per cup, or roughly 3/4 of a teaspoon, to the kyusu. Pour the water back into the kyusu from each cup and close the lid. The water temperature should be around 70ºC, which is the same as brewing high-grade sencha. Brew the tea for two minutes, then serve into each cup, alternating from time to time to ensure a uniform mix in each cup.

It’s important to note that tea brewing instructions can vary between producers, even for the same types of tea. These are just general guidelines that are commonly used for Japanese kabusecha brands. It’s recommended to follow the brewing instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Exploring the Flavors of Kabusecha

Kabusecha tea has a unique flavor profile that can be enjoyed in different ways depending on how it is prepared. The tea can be infused at a low temperature to bring out the umami and sweetness, similar to that of Gyokuro. This is achieved by preventing the bitter and astringent tastes from coming out.

Another characteristic of Kabusecha tea is the “ooika” scent, which is a rich smell generated by shading the tea leaves with straw and reed, just like in Gyokuro. However, the “ooika” in Kabusecha tea adds a fresh note, which distinguishes it from Gyokuro.

Alternatively, Kabusecha tea can be infused at a higher temperature to highlight the astringent and bitter tastes, which are pleasant and reminiscent of Sencha. This versatility of the tea makes it a joy to experiment with and discover new flavors. It’s worth noting that the taste of Kabusecha tea can vary depending on the producer’s brewing instructions, so it’s recommended to use the instructions provided by the manufacturer for the best results.

The Health Benefits of Kabusecha

Kabusecha, like Sencha, offers numerous health benefits due to its high nutrient content. Since Kabusecha is made from the first harvest of high-grade tea leaves, it is packed with nutrients that are essential for good health.

However, there are some differences between Kabusecha and Sencha when it comes to the nutrient balance. The shading of the tea leaves in Kabusecha alters the balance of nutrients. Theanine, which is a non-protein amino acid that provides a relaxing effect, is not converted into catechins as much as in Sencha due to the shading process.

On the other hand, the shading of the tea leaves in Kabusecha increases the caffeine content, making it a good choice for those who need a boost in energy before sports or study.

Famous Regions for Kabusecha Production

Mie Prefecture (Isecha)

The Mie prefecture is the largest producer of Kabusecha in Japan, with almost a third of the country’s production coming from this region. The tea produced here, known as “Isecha,” may be relatively unknown compared to other tea regions, but it boasts the third-largest green tea plantations and output in Japan. The northern tea plantations in the Suzuka mountains are particularly well-known for their high-quality Kabusecha.

Kyoto Prefecture (Ujicha)

Kyoto is home to the Ujicha region, which has a long history of producing high-quality shaded teas such as Matcha, Gyokuro, and Kabusecha. In fact, Kyoto has dominated the National Tea Competition for Kabusecha in the past decade, demonstrating its continuous production of the best Kabusecha in Japan.

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