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Growers make kukicha tea from a variety of twigs and coarse leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant that they roast separately according to size. The roasting process gives this tea a distinct smoky flavor. George Ohsawa, the founder of the macrobiotic diet, brought kukicha tea to the U.S. in the 1960s from Japan. The tea is a healthy complement to a macrobiotic diet because of its alkalizing properties and low caffeine level.
A cup of kukicha tea has 90 percent less caffeine than a cup of regular brewed coffee, which has between 95 to 200 mg of caffeine per 8 oz., depending on the variety and amount of coffee used. Kukicha has the lowest caffeine content of all the traditional teas. Green tea, for example, contains 41 percent less caffeine than coffee 1.
Why the Caffeine Content Is Low
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To keep the tea as naturally low in caffeine as possible, growers only select older twigs. Tea producers harvest the kukicha twigs and leaves in the fall and winter seasons when they are the most delicate and the caffeine content is at its lowest.
Negative Health Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine stresses the immune system and makes the heart work harder than it should. It can cause jitteriness, anxiety and infertility. It leaches calcium from the bones and dehydrates you because of its diuretic properties. Researchers also link caffeine to breast cysts. Consuming a beverage low in caffeine like kukicha tea can stave off some of the negative effects of caffeine.
- Caffeine stresses the immune system and makes the heart work harder than it should.
- Consuming a beverage low in caffeine like kukicha tea can stave off some of the negative effects of caffeine.
Actress Alicia Silverstone and Kukicha Tea
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Alicia Silverstone, star of the movie "Clueless" and author of the plant-based diet book "The Kind Diet," uses kukicha tea as her "cure-all" tea 2. She claims that this tea, when combined with umeboshi plum and shoyu, restores your blood mineral balance and can help with hangovers and nausea, reduce heartburn, relieve digestive distress and stabilize blood sugar levels if you have eaten too much refined white sugar. Shoyu is a soy sauce made from soybeans, salt and wheat. An umeboshi plum is a sour, pickled plum that helps alkalize your blood.
- Alicia Silverstone, star of the movie "Clueless" and author of the plant-based diet book "The Kind Diet," uses kukicha tea as her "cure-all" tea 2.
- Shoyu is a soy sauce made from soybeans, salt and wheat.
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- MayoClinic.com: Caffeine Content for Coffee, Tea, Soda and More
- "The Kind Diet"; Alicia Silverstone; 2009
- MedlinePlus: Caffeine
- Zaragoza J, Tinsley G, Urbina S, et al. Effects of acute caffeine, theanine and tyrosine supplementation on mental and physical performance in athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2019;16(1):56. doi:10.1186/s12970-019-0326-3
- Higashi Y. Coffee and endothelial function: A coffee paradox? Nutrients. 2019;11(9). doi: 10.3390/nu11092104
- Temple JL, Bernard C, Lipshultz SE, Czachor JD, Westphal JA, Mestre MA. The safety of ingested caffeine: A comprehensive review. Front Psychiatry. 2017;8:80. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00080
- National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. Is caffeine really addictive? Updated 2020.
- The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy. Updated 2016.
- Kids Health from Nemours. Caffeine. Updated 2017.
- Beydoun MA et. al. Caffeine and alcohol intakes and overall nutrient adequacy are associated with longitudinal cognitive performance among U.S. adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 2014;144(6);890-901. doi:10.3945/jn.113.189027
Kathryn Flynn is a health educator and a writer specializing in nutrition. She has worked in high school health education, plant-based nutrition counseling, yoga instruction, public health promotion and childhood obesity prevention. Flynn holds a Master of Public Health and is a certified plant-based nutritionist, holistic health coach and yoga instructor.