Hojicha is a unique Japanese low-caffeine tea featuring delicious smoky flavors and a beautiful red color. Read on to learn more about one of my all-time favorite drinks!
When I used to live in Japan more than 10 years ago, I discovered one of my favorite drinks, Japanese roasted green tea. It’s one of the teas I drink the most often and always have a supply at home. It’s definitely amongst my favorites.
This tea is not very popular in North America. So I wanted to share the existence of this tea with you!
The actual name of this kind of tea is Hojicha, or more accurately Hōjicha or Houjicha. You see, when writing Japanese using our alphabet “ō” or “ou” indicates an elongated “oh” sound, like in arigatou!
Houjicha literally means roasted tea, “Houji” means to roast and “cha” means tea.
In this brief guide, we will cover:
So grab a cup of tea and let’s get started!
Houjicha is a relatively new kind of tea, considering tea has more than 1,000 years of history in Japan. It emerged in the early 1920s, when the production of Japanese green tea was getting modernized.
The modernization of green tea production in Japan involved the mechanization of the harvesting process, using machine trimming. This resulted in a lot of waste, under the form of stems and leaf debris.
The Japanese people have always been very mindful about waste, probably due to living on an island with limited resources.
So it’s not surprising that in the 1920s a merchant in Kyoto thought of an ingenious idea: roasting the tea debris that resulted from mechanized trimming instead of throwing it away!
He roasted the “waste” bits over charcoal, and the result was a beautiful tea of brownish and reddish colors featuring a delicious smoky flavor and almost no bitterness!
As a bonus, the roasting process emanates an irresistible aroma! Since then, tea shop owners in Japan started roasting tea as a technique to draw customers using this aroma!
Nowadays, Houjicha is one of the most popular drinks in Japan.
Its flavors have even made it to ice cream and desserts!
As mentioned, Hojicha is Japanese roasted green tea.
Typically, bancha is used, which is harvested later than sencha and grown in full sun exposure. This makes bancha one of the lowest grades of Japanese tea, but when roasted, it is delicious!
After harvesting, the leaves (or stems) go through the same oxidation process as typical Japanese green tea.
It is the next step, roasting, which gives hojicha its unique characteristics!
Traditionally, the roasting process involves tightly rolling the dried leaves, stems and stalks then roasting them over charcoal using a horoku (traditional roasting pot).
However, the spinning drum roasting method (as in coffee roasting) has become commonplace!
To have the best cup of houjicha tea, prepare as you would prepare any green tea.
The hotter the water and the longer the steeping time the higher the chance of a bitter tea!
This means using water at about 176 degrees Fahrenheit or 80 degrees Celsius. The steeping time typically ranges between 30 to 90 seconds.
Some people begin with a shorter steeping time, and then increase the time after each subsequent steeping!
Experiment and let us know how you like your hojicha best!
The unique flavors of Hojicha could be described as smoky and nutty with sometimes a hint of sweetness.
The taste may depend on which grade of tea hojicha is made from.
You see, although bancha is typically used, kukicha (twig tea), sencha (the Japanese green tea we all know) or even gyokuro can be roasted! This results in different types of hojicha!
During the roasting process, most of the caffeine and astringency of green tea are removed.
So Houjicha is a low caffeine tea!
This makes this tea the perfect substitue for coffee or higher caffeine tea in the evenings!
I experienced this when I used to live in Japan. Most households would offer me Hojicha in the evenings with dinner.
This tea is also ideal for the elderly and those with sensitivities to caffeine!
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I hope you have enjoyed learning about Hojicha.
I also really hope that you give it a try, it’s now a ‘must’ in my life!
Let us know what you think in the comments!