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What Is Kabusecha?

Most of the tea that is grown in Japan is green tea, but even green tea comes in many different varieties. The most popular green tea consumed around the world is known as sencha, but there are other types such as kabusecha, too. 

Kabusecha is a dark green tea type that gets its flavor, coloring, and aroma from a specific practice where the tea is shaded. This practice is known as kabuse. Kabusecha has higher levels of caffeine and lower levels of astringency from being shaded during part of its growing period. 

Kabusecha might look like typical green tea at first glance, but there are several special traits it has that make this deep green tea special. Read on to learn more about kabusecha tea and what makes it different from other green teas. 

Kabusecha as a First Flush Tea

Green tea is usually harvested in two harvests, also known as flushes on tea plantations in India. However, most kabusecha teas originate in Japan. 

The first flush is a tea harvest that occurs in early spring or even late winter. Teas that are harvested during the first flush tend to be more expensive than teas harvested during second flush because they are fresher. 

Kabusecha is harvested almost exclusively as a first flush tea to help preserve the delicate flavors imbued in the leaves from its shaded growing time. 

How Is Kabusecha Tea Grown?

The main trait that distinguishes kabusecha tea from other green tea types is its growing method. Kabusecha tea is completely shaded in the last week of its growth prior to harvest for 7-10 days. This lack of sunlight causes the developing tea to have a different aroma, coloration, texture, and flavor profile. 

The change in flavor caused by shading was discovered by Japanese tea farmers accidentally hundreds of years ago. The tea plants were originally covered in late winter or early spring to help protect them from killing frost that would damage the tea plants. 

It was only after brewing this shaded tea that the tea farmers realized the shading process created a tea that was less bitter and more savory than green tea grown without shade. 

Kabusecha growing in shade

Why Is Kabusecha Expensive? 

Kabusecha is one of the most expensive types of green tea in the world, with the others being gyokuro and matcha tea. There are a few reasons for this high value

  • Hand-plucking: Unlike some other tea types, which can be harvested mechanically, high-end teas like kabusecha are hand-plucked in the field. This allows the workers to leave tea leaf tips that aren’t quite matured and hand-select the perfect green tea leaves by visual inspection. This is a labor-intensive operation that can be expensive to run.
  • Shade growth: Kabusecha teas are grown for extended periods in full shade. While this helps give the tea its distinctive flavor, it also makes the tea more vulnerable to damage and illness since plants need sunlight to thrive. Managing shade-grown tea is harder than other types.
  • Marketing: Kabusecha is marketed as a kabuse tea, which is a descriptor of any green tea type that is particularly high quality. The word kabuse means “to hide” in Japanese, a reference to the shaded growing methods used in these teas. Being marketed as a luxury item allows distributors to charge more for kabusecha than other tea types. 

Even though kabusecha can be more expensive than sencha or other green tea types, there are several qualities that set this tea apart from other similar teas like sencha, gyokuro, and tananake teas. 

How Is Kabusecha Different From Sencha Tea?

Compared to sencha tea, kabusecha tea has a darker coloring when brewed. Kabusecha tea brews to a greenish-yellow shade, while sencha tea brews to a yellowish color instead. Kabusecha tea also has a more umami, or savory flavor, than sencha tea.

How Is Kabusecha Different From Gyokuro Tea? 

Kabusecha is similar to gyokuro tea in both color and taste. However, the big difference is in how these two teas are cultivated. Kabusecha is only shaded for the final week prior to harvest, while gyokuro tea is shaded up to twenty days instead. 

In general, kabusecha is considered a midway point between sencha tea and gyokuro tea in terms of coloration, aroma, flavor, and health benefits. 

Health Benefits of Kabusecha Tea

While all green tea varieties are a healthy addition to your daily diet, there are certain qualities that set kabusecha apart. 

The main difference in health benefits between kabusecha and other green tea types is that the shading process gives kabusecha tea larger quantities of l-theanine. This amino acid is present in all green tea and is associated with several nutritional advantages, including the following :   

  • Anxiety and stress relief: A cup of tea has long been associated across the world with melting away stress and negative emotions. High levels of l-theanine make kabusecha the perfect green tea to sit down with after a hard day of work or play.
  • Increase in focus and concentration: Along with its relaxing qualities, the l-theanine present in green tea helps improve concentration and memory during mental tasks.
  • Improved immune function: L-theanine is associated with improving the body’s immune reaction to infections. It is associated with reducing immune-based inflammation in the GI tract and resistance to chronic illnesses such as cancer.
  • Lowered blood pressure: For tea drinkers who are susceptible to high blood pressure as a result of stress, the relaxing qualities of l-theanine in green tea can help lower blood pressure to acceptable levels, preventing cardiovascular disease. 

Aside from the simple pleasure of drinking a cup of kabusecha, there are many health-based reasons why you might want to make this green tea a part of your daily routine. 

Kabusecha shaded tea leaves

What Does Kabusecha Tea Taste Like?

Compared to other types of green tea, kabusecha has a less vegetal and astringent flavor. Instead, this tea has a mellow, mildly sweet umami profile that is described as more refreshing than other tea types. 

Compared to other types of tea such as Darjeeling tea or Earl Grey, kabusecha and other green teas are considered somewhat bitter. This is because other types of tea, such as black tea, tend to be dressed up with sweeteners and dairy. Green teas like kabusecha are usually consumed without add-ins. 

How to Brew Kabusecha Tea

To brew the perfect pot of kabusecha tea, use one tablespoon or five grams of tea per six ounces of water. Be sure to heat up the water for the tea up to the point that it is lightly steaming, but not boiling. Boiling the water can damage the chemicals in the tea that give the tea its flavor and aroma. 

Once the water for the tea is heated, place the loose tea in the water and let it steep for three to four minutes before straining out the loose tea and serving it in cups.  

Here are some tips for getting good results when you brew kabusecha tea: 

  • To help keep the tea from cooling too quickly when served, pour some of the hot water into the tea cups to warm them before pouring the water back into the pot and adding the tea.
  • An instant-read coffee and tea thermometer can help you reach the proper temperature with your water for the perfect kabusecha brew. The water should be 140F for best results.

Kabusecha tea is somewhat precious, so it’s well worth the extra trouble to brew it correctly. If you do, you’ll be blown away at the depth of flavor this tea is capable of.  

Can Kabusecha Tea Be Infused Twice?

Because it’s such a high-quality tea, it’s possible to infuse kabusecha tea twice and reuse the tea for a second steeping. 

The only downside to re-steeping kabusecha for a second infusion is that the second pot of tea may have a slightly more bitter and astringent taste than the previous pot. 

However, because kabusecha is such a mild tea to begin with, this bitter quality is softer with kabusecha infusions than other green teas. This is one of the reasons it’s a top choice for re-steeping. Gyokuro tea is another good choice for multiple green tea infusions. 

Kabusecha is the Cream of the Crop of Green Tea

If you want to get into drinking green tea and you want to drink the best tea available, kabusecha is a tea variety you should look into trying. Delicious and healthy, this is a tea that can help turn around the worst day or set you off right in the morning. 

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