What is Kabusecha Tea?

Picture of Falling Sencha Tea on Black Background
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Kabusecha tea translates as “covered tea” It is a high-quality Japanese green tea, usually described as somewhere between a sencha and a gyokuro in terms of flavor and quality. It is also referred to as Kabuse tea.

Kabusecha is one of the most expensive Japanese green teas, next to gyokuro and matcha. Kabusecha is prepared using hand-plucked tea leaves that are grown in the shade.

Japanese green tea is considered some of the highest quality green teas in the world, with a history dating back centuries of cultivation and ritual surrounding tea.

The Story Behind the Quality

High-quality Japanese green tea is grown in the shade. The Japanese believe this creates “ooika” or a “covered aroma” for the tea leaves. Chemically speaking, growing tea leaves in the shade means higher levels of theanine and other amino acids which contribute to their flavor.

Kabusecha is kept in the shade for a shorter period than gyokuro and is sometimes referred to as a shade-grown sencha. Kabusecha is shaded anywhere from 1 week to 10 days. The plant itself is covered with around 50% of light blocked.

The shading time is only one element of what makes up Kabusecha tea. Most tea comes from the same plantCamellia Sinais, but they transform into the different types of tea we know through oxidation. The green tea process includes a partial oxidation process. Full oxidation would create black tea while little to no oxidation would create oolong or white tea. 

What does Kabusecha Tea Taste Like?

Kabusecha is considered “first flush tea” which means the tea leaves are some of the very first picks of the harvest season. Teas of this kind tend to have delicate flavors with notes of sweet florals and earthiness. They are often the rarest and most expensive teas as the batch is very limited each season.

The cultivation method helps create a more complex flavor than Sencha. Astringency and notes of grassiness are not as prominent. Instead, the taste is milder, with a rich umami flavor and a light sweetness.

How to Brew Kabusecha Tea

Green tea is more delicate than black or herbal tea and needs to brew at a lower temperature. Aim for 70 degrees Celsius or 158 degrees Fahrenheit. Add roughly three grams of tea to a teapot and brew for about 2 minutes. Serve to each cup, alternating cups while adding a little bit at a time to each cup so the flavor gets distributed evenly.

If you want the taste to be more reminiscent of gyokuro, you can also lower the brewing temperature to about 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Higher temperatures or longer brew times can result in a bitter taste, causing the tea to lose the delicate florals and umami that green tea is known for.

Comparing Japanese Green Tea

There are four primary types of high-quality Japanese green tea, sencha, bancha, gyokuro, and kabusecha. Each of these has a unique flavor brought on by the cultivation and preparation process.

Gyokuro is cultivated for at least 3 weeks in the shade. This process requires very careful cultivation to grow and maintain the strong umami flavor associated with this green tea. Other cultivation factors such as fertilization can also impact the flavor and create regional differences in the gyokuro tea. 

Kabusecha is similar to gyokuro in that it spends time cultivating in the shade. The shaded cultivation is only shaded for 7 to 10 days. The flavor is often described as somewhere in between sencha and gyokuro. The shade time allows for more umami than the sencha but not quite as much as the gyokuro.

Sencha is a wide definition of green tea. Instead of the cultivation process, sencha is defined by its preparation. The tea leaf is picked young, steamed, rolled, and then dried. Gyokuro and Kabusecha are both prepared this way, but the added cultivation process makes them a little bit more complex in flavor. Sencha has a little less umami and a little more earthiness but is still described as delicate in comparison to bancha.

Bancha is known as more robust with an astringent and bitter flavor. The tea leaves tend to be larger than those picked for sencha and may be roasted instead of steamed. The earthy flavor is still well-loved but considered the lowest quality of these green teas.

Comparing Caffeine in Green Tea

Green Tea naturally has caffeine in it, but less than coffee or black tea. Kabusecha tea has about 3 grams of caffeine per 100 grams of tea. Here’s how that stacks up compared to other green teas.

  • Gyokuro – 3.2 grams
  • Sencha – 2.7 grams
  • Reicha – 2.6 grams
  • Fukamushicha – 2.4 grams
  • Kukicha – 2.8 grams
  • Hojicha – 2.6 grams
  • Matcha 2.9 grams

Health Benefits of Kabusecha Tea

Green tea is renowned for its health benefits and regular consumption is proven to promote good health and prevent disease. Higher quality green teas, like kabusecha, have even higher levels of antioxidants and vitamins that reduce the risk of chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease.

The caffeine in kabusecha provides a boost in energy, but the other amino acids allow for a slower release. Caffeine from green tea is less likely to leave you with the jitters, making it a perfect afternoon pick-me-up. 

The anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties in green tea make it a perfect addition to skincare routines as well. You can find green tea in everything from soaps to masks, with some skin care experts recommending using tea bags directly on the skin to reduce puffiness, acne, and oiliness.

Summary

Kabusecha tea is a delicious addition to your tea collection. It’s one of Japan’s highest-quality teas, made using a shading process to bring out the umami flavor in the leaves. The complex, slightly sweet tea offers a gentle dose of caffeine and a big hit of antioxidants to your day. Give kabusecha tea a try and taste the care that goes into crafting this luxury tea.