There are many different kinds of green tea to try, and the way these teas are processed drastically alters their flavor and appearance. You can place two types of Japanese green teas next to each other that taste and look nothing alike. One green tea you may not have tried is Hōjicha.
Hōjicha tea is a special green tea that has been roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal embers. The tea is roasted at a low enough temperature that the tea avoids the oxidation process, but still takes on a beautiful golden color and a gently roasted flavor. In comparison, most green teas are processed through steaming alone.
Hōjicha tea was originally invented to help preserve the last green tea harvest, but green tea enthusiasts have learned to love its mellow, nutty flavor. Read on to learn more about Hōjicha tea, where it comes from, and why this is one of the most special Japanese teas today.
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Where Does Hōjicha Tea Come From?
Like most green tea, Hōjicha tea originated on the island of Japan, specifically in the town of Kyoto. The idea to lightly roast tea to preserve it occurred to a Kyoto tea merchant in 1920 when the last harvest of the year, the bancha tea harvest, was not selling quickly enough. To preserve its aroma and flavor, he roasted the remaining tea in a porcelain pot.
The roasting process is what makes the tea hojicha leaves different.
This charcoal roasted green tea that is never exposed to high temperatures became such a popular tea with tea buyers that it has been a staple of Kyoto cuisine ever since.
What Does Hōjicha Tea Taste Like?
Hōjicha tea has a distinctly different flavor than other unroasted types of green tea. It also has a different flavor than tea that has been oxidized through steaming. Hōjicha tea has a nutty, almost sweet flavor with no hints of bitterness or astringency that you might find in other green teas.
Hōjicha tea always has a different appearance than most green teas. While many green teas have a pale greenish-yellow or green liquor, Hōjicha tea has a liquor that is a light reddish brown color. This is the result of toasted tea leaves releasing their tannins into the water during the brewing process.
Is Hōjicha Tea the Same as Matcha Tea?
While Hōjicha tea and matcha tea both start out as green tea from the same tea plant, that’s about the extent of their similarity to each other. Here are a few ways that Hōjicha tea is different than matcha tea:
- Processing: Hōjicha tea is generally served as a loose leaf tea, while matcha tea is processed into a finely ground powder. This tea is sometimes also sold as a hojicha powder, but this is less common. Matcha tea is also not roasted, while hōjicha is.
- Appearance: Matcha tea appears as a bright green very fine powder whipped into a frothy green drink. Hōjicha does not have a head of foam on it like matcha since it is not whisked into the hot water, and it has a dark brown appearance.
- Flavor: Matcha has a vegetal, low bitterness to its flavor palate with a smooth mouthfeel, while Hōjicha creates a thinner, more mellow liquor with a slight smoky aroma.
- Use: Hōjicha tea is primarily used for drinking, while matcha powder is used just as often in desserts and food as it is for making matcha tea and matcha lattes.
- Flush: Most drinking grade matcha teas are processed from first flush teas, or the first tea leaves harvested of the year. Most hōjicha tea is processed from bancha tea, or the final tea harvest time of the year.
- Preparation: Hojicha is normally brewed using loose leaf tea or tea bags. By contrast, matcha is traditionally mixed into hot water using a bamboo whisk and tea bowl.
- Levels of Caffeine: A main difference between the two is that Hojicha has far less caffeine than matcha per cup. (8 mg vs. 70 mg of caffeine)
- Ceremonial Use: Ceremonial grade matcha powder is used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony , whereas hojicha tea leaves are just used for drinking.
Hōjicha tea leaves and matcha tea both come from the same plant. But due to the way they’re processed and the extra roasting step, they end up looking and tasting nothing like each other. While most people in North America are familiar with matcha, fewer know about hojicha.
Benefits of Hōjicha Tea
The benefits of drinking hōjicha tea are the same benefits you’d get from drinking any green tea, which is one of the healthiest teas you can drink. Here are just a few of the health advantages you can enjoy by regularly consuming hōjicha tea:
- Antioxidants: Green tea like hōjicha tea is full of plant botanicals known as polyphenols and catechins like EGCG that act as antioxidants. These chemicals help round up free radicals in your body and prevent chronic degenerative illnesses related to inflammation like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and dementia.
- Caffeine levels: The low caffeine content in hōjicha tea is more gentle and releases more slowly than caffeine you’d ingest in coffee or other caffeinated drinks. This means the tea has less caffeine and provides an energizing property without causing you to feel jittery or sick.
- Relaxation and mood enhancement: Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid associated with mood enhancement, increased concentration, and a calming effect. Hōjicha tea is a great study buddy since it keeps you calm while also allowing you to absorb large amounts of information.
- Improves brain function: Hojicha’s caffeine and L-theanine have been proven to work together to improve brain function.
- Helps burn fat: Numerous studies show that green tea can boost your metabolic rate and help you burn fat faster.
- May protect the brain from aging: The catechin compounds in green tea have been shown to have a protective effect on neurons in the brain.
- Helps lower blood sugar: A Japanese study found that green tea can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- May increase longevity: Another Japanese study found that drinking green tea reduces mortality.
High quality green tea leaves are associated with a whole host of different positive health benefits from weight loss to boosting the immune system, so it’s worth adding into your morning tea routine.
Hōjicha tea gives you a green tea with a bit of an alternative umami flavor if traditional green teas like matcha are too bitter for your palate.
Plus, its lower caffeine levels won’t make you jittery so it’s a great choice to drink in the afternoon and evening.
How to Brew Hōjicha Tea
According to Master Class, this is the best way to brew up a single cup of tea:
- Place 1½ teaspoons of loose leaf Hōjicha tea into a small teapot.
- Add 8 ounces of water heated over high heat until just boiling ~ 200° F.
- Allow to steep for about 30 seconds.
- Pour over a strainer into a teacup and enjoy!
When immediately served after brewing, hojicha hot tea has smoky taste. Cooling this roasted tea a bit brings out its natural sweetness.
Of course, like most less common Japanese green tea, you can buy it in specialty tea shops, or online in convenient, single serving tea bags. Hojicha can be served hot but also makes a delicious iced tea.
Hōjicha Tea Is a Delicious Invention
Hōjicha may have been invented to help prevent older green tea from spoiling, but tea enthusiasts have been enjoying the results of this food experiment for decades. Hōjicha offers all of the health benefits of traditional green tea while also offering up some of the roasted flavor found in oxidized or black tea.