Steep Thoughts from The Aviary Teahouse: Tsubame Kuckicha

By Astra Kim

Mixing cultures a little today. Trying out this Tsubame Kukicha brewed in my Korean cha-gwan. Served with sea salt mochi and yak-gwa on vintage Japanese Lusterware.

The tea is lovely. Brewing suggestions instruct one to brew this at 80°C for 80 seconds, but I often find their advice on brewing yields a tea that’s slightly more astringent than I care for, so I kicked it down to 75°C for 80 seconds and was rewarded with a sweet and smooth tea that has tasting notes of molasses and toasted grain, which was beautiful.

Kukicha is made of the stems and stalks of the tea plant, so the resulting tea is much lower in caffeine content and the flavor is much lighter. Brewing the stems and stalks are also much more forgiving that the actual leaf, so this can also be a great practice tea for someone who is just learning how to handle Japanese green teas. The smoothness of flavor and low caffeine content makes this an ideal evening tea to unwind with or a great mid-afternoon tea if you’re looking for a bit of tea flavor without the big punch of stimulants. Another great way to brew Kukicha is to simmer in oat milk for a nice, creamy evening beverage.

Welcome to Steep Thoughts! The Aviary is the imaginary teahouse of Astra, CA’s Head of Logistics. When she’s not building conventions with her amazing team, she’s a life-long tea enthusiast who reads too many books on the subject and will talk your ear off if given half a chance.

Astra brews in all kinds of styles, traditional and non and loves pairing food and tea. You can expect her to write random reviews of all the different teas she tries, wax a little philosophical about tea history, and include interviews or updates from the lovely people of The Alchemist Tea Parlour. You can also find her on Instagram: tempestedbird@