What is Hōjicha? (ほうじ茶)
A popular type of Japanese green tea is hojicha which may not seem like green tea at first glance because the characteristics and process of making the tea is so different. In addition, there are some benefits of hojicha which the typical green tea does not have.
The color of hojicha is reddish brown with a sweet smoky flavor sometimes described as caramel, charcoal, or roasted nuts. In Japan, the tea uses a lower grade of tea leaves than other green teas and therefore is not as expensive and sweet. However, the drink is very popular in Japan because its light, sweet flavor is delicious and easy to drink. Similar to matcha, hojicha is widely used as ingredients in drinks, deserts, and food. Also, tea shop owners frequently brew this drink to attract customer because of its soothing and earthy aroma, which is different from the grass-like aroma of some other green teas.
How Hojicha is Processed
After the first or second harvest of green tea leaves, the leftover leaves along with the stems and twigs are used to make hojicha. This means that hojicha is usually made from bancha (older coarse tea leaves) and kukicha (stem and twigs) more than sencha (younger and sweeter tea leaves). Like other green tea leaves, the leaves are steamed and dried.
A unique aspect of this tea is that the coarse leaves, stems, and twigs are then roasted, creating loose leaves. In fact, “hoji” means roast and “cha” means tea in Japanese. Traditionally this tea is roasted in a porcelain pot over high temperature at around 200 Celsius and afterwards is quickly cooled down. This distinct process decreases the amount of catechin and caffeine in the leaves, meaning less astringency which is what give green tea its grass-like taste and less bitterness respectively.
Here are some benefits of hojicha.
- Low caffeine content due to selection of leaves and the roasting process makes it suitable for drinking late in the day and for kids and elderly.
- When brewed and left to chill, this tea produces a calming aroma which can help promote relaxation and decrease stress.
- The amount of L-theanine in this drink can help reduce high blood pressure while catechins act as an antioxidant to reduce bad cholesterol.