Tea tasting: Kumazasa-cha

Last May, I was hiking alone along a less touristy part of the Nakasendo trail in the Kiso valley in central-Japan, partly because I wanted to be alone and away from the city stress. At some point I was in a darker part of the forest. My ears got sharper, as I know in these parts can be bears and boars. Suddenly I heard some noise and it scared me. I thought I heard a bear or boar approaching me 😅. But to my surprise, it was the plant. It seems to whisper when the wind goes through it. That day in May was the first time I noticed this plant. I took some pictures, I remember, and tried to remember me to look up, but I always forgot for some reason. But I encountered these plants at other spots in Japan and feel more and more at ease. Sometimes I am at a space, and feel good energy, take a sit, and see the plant is also there.

Since I am back in Japan in end of November, I was not sure which tea plants to study in Japan, of which I could make tea for forest therapy, a price I study with the ANFT (Association of Nature and Forest Therapy). During a first forest bath in Japan (early December° I offered hot chocolate to my participants, as I do not know the nature of Japan and did not feel ready to offer them tea from Japanese wild plants I saw there. But some days ago, I decided to go hiking a part of the Nakasendo trail again. In a first shop, I found a package full of tea bags that says these are the 7 ‘mountain tea herbs’ and it has drawings. I recognised this plant, and was very happy to know it is also a tea plant – and has probably healthy properties. My Japanese is terrible, but I recognised the kanji for mountain and healthy. I decided to study this plant more and see how to make tea from it. By coincidence, at the end of the hike, I went to a tea shop at a local trainstation and to my surprise I found ‘kumasasa green tea’ at the menu list. It was first time, I think, I heard about it, and I asked the teashop owner more information about it, but he could not explain it.

I found this blog while looking for more information about the tea plant, its medicinal properties, folklore, musings and other things I could share with my participants. It is interesting to see that perhaps it is no surprise I thought on bears, when I ‘heard’ this plant, because it is ‘bear food’. And it is interesting to read this plant comes from Hokkaido. I visited Hokkaido with the same friend I shared a video that day in May to ask if he knows more, as his parents are agricultural scientists. For some reason, I had a feeling in the last weeks that this plant wants to be acknowledged by me. Like ‘pick me, study me’. Too much serendipity happens when I give attention to this plant :).

茶柱 The Floating Tea Stem

I was told that Kumazasa (Sasa veitchii) is a specialty of Hokkaido, where it is naturally grown. The kanji characters 熊笹 literally mean ‘bear’s bamboo leaves’ and no surprise it is a favourite among bears before they head into hibernation.

The leaves are also known for its anti-bacterial properties, hence why they are commonly used in wrapping food such as chimaki and dango.


The tea, or more accurately tisane, itself is sold in a wide variety of forms from loose leaf to granulated extract. During my trip to Hokkaido earlier this year, I noticed kumazasa canned drinks and teabags.

I bought the latter form in Shiraoi, a small town on the southern coast, a little more than an hour from Sapporo by rail.

The package I bought was actually produced by a local bakery shop called Nanakamado, which is popular for its pastries. The tea is roasted on-site…

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