Hojicha (also spelled Houjicha) is a truly unique tea from Japan. This roasted green tea was supposedly created by a tea merchant in Kyoto,sometime in the 1920’s, who decided to roast bancha tea outside of his tea store to attract customers in to look at his tea wares. This rather humble beginning hides a tea that is actually a staple in Japanese tea culture today. The roasting lowers caffeine in the tea when compared to its fellow green teas, so the Japanese frequently use hojicha as an evening tea or tea that is given to anyone who may be sensitive to caffeine, like children or the elderly.
How Hojicha is Made
Hojicha is made from sencha or bancha tea. Bancha leaves are typically on the plant longer than sencha, making them bigger and imparting a more dry grass flavor. Both teas are processed identically with steam to stop oxidation. Hoijcha comes from adding an additional step to the process with roasting the leaves at around 200°F for just a few minutes. This roasting process imparts a roasted chestnut or hazelnut aroma and flavor. If it is roasted for too long, just like nuts, the leaves will quickly burn.
Hojicha can have tea stems in it, but this often dictated on whether the stems are kept in or removed as part of making bancha or sencha. Having stems in your hojicha is not a bad thing, it can actually intensify the nutty flavor from roasting.
How to Brew Hojicha
Hojicha is brewed in Japan just like other green teas. The water temperature should be in the range of 175-185°F. You will want around 3 grams of tea to 8 ounces of water. Generally hojicha leaves are larger and quite lightweight, so reach for tablespoon to measure out this tea if not using a kitchen scale. It can be steeped for up to 3 minutes. While it might be tempting to treat this green tea like a black tea because of its color, boiling water will eliminate some of the nuances found when the lower water temperature is used. It can also be brewed by doubling or tripling the amount of tea to water and dropping the steep time to 30 seconds-1 minute. This often results in a very intense nutty flavor.
This beautiful tea is worth exploring whenever you are in the mood for something nutty in your tea.