A young monk asked the wise tea master Lao Cha:
— Sensei, I want a green tea that is so roasted that it tastes more like Chinese hongcha – what Westerners call "black tea". Is it even possible to find something like this?
— Of course, young novice. Haven't you heard of Hojicha tea with low caffeine content, made of roasted kukicha? It's one of the most popular teas in Japan!
Hojicha is a Japanese roasted green tea. It is one of the most popular teas in Japan. Thanks to Hojicha caffeine content being quite low, it's a popular beverage to consume after dinner and even kids love it! Hojicha tea has a pleasant, sweet roasted aroma similar to candied nuts or chestnuts, which makes it a favorite amongst people of all ages.
Hojicha is popular with meals in Japan
History of Tea: Hojicha
Hojicha green tea production didn't start until well into the 20th century, 1920 to be exact.
Tea first came to Japan long before then, during the Nara Period (AD 710 - 794). It was a well-established drink between Buddhist monks and nobles thanks to the numerous health benefits of green tea, and the balanced caffeine content which would help keep monks awake, but not overly energized, during long hours of meditation.
By the Edo period (1603 - 1868) Japanese tea culture was already booming.
The invention of Hojicha came about with the improvement of harvesting technology. Traditionally tea has been hand-harvested and still is for top quality teas. However, by the 20th century, Japanese export was prospering, and farmers needed a way to keep up with green tea demand. Machinery got implemented more and more.
Machine trimming is more rough and vigorous than hand-harvest. There would be many “leftover” stems, twigs, and broken tea leaves that at first seemed like a waste.
In the 1920s, a tea farmer took these leftovers and tried roasting them over charcoal. And so, Hojicha was invented.
After its invention in Kyoto, the roasted tea soon spread across all of Japan. Not only was it a great way of practicing mottainai philosophy, but also the pleasant smell of roasting tea was a wonderful way to invite people into your tea shop.
Today we can choose from many different varieties of Hojicha made from bancha, sencha, and kukicha. The tea is equally loved both hot and iced, as a latte, or even in desserts.
Although most Hojicha is made from bancha (the harvest that comes from the leaves and stems not used during sencha harvest), our Hojicha is made from kukicha (twigs and some leaves). It is one of our favorite teas and also an excellent substitute for coffee!
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How Does Hojicha Taste?
The roasting process of Hojicha kills most of the tannins in the tea (they are responsible for the astringency often found in green teas). Another benefit of the roasting is caffeine reduction since it doesn't survive temperatures past 178℃. As a result, we get a comforting, sweet, low-caffeine tea.
The taste is described as nutty, caramel-like, slightly earthy, or resembling candied chestnuts.
Although Hojicha is known as a common or everyday type of tea in Japan, its soothing, well-rounded taste is bound to have you in love with it from the first sip! Which is one of the reasons it's consumed as much as it is — a kyusu of brewed Hojicha can easily be shared with the whole family, no matter the age!
How to Brew Hojicha
Hojicha is brewed similarly to other Japanese teas, but even easier!
Thanks to the roast, Hojicha is forgiving of high temperatures. So you can easily brew Hojicha even without having a proper tea kettle around.
Steps for brewing a tasty cup of Hojicha roasted green tea:
- Use a Kyusu (or brewing vessel of choice)
- Measure 0.25g tea per 1oz/30ml
- Fill with water 200℉ / 95℃ water (just below boiling)
- Brew for 1-2min + 15sec for each subsequent infusion