Although the color of the hojicha and leaves may make it look like a type of black tea, Hojicha is actually a roasted green tea. After the leaves are harvested, they are steamed to stop the oxidation process. If the leaves were not heated after harvest, they would fully oxidize and become a black tea. This makes hōjicha a type of Japanese green tea, but what makes it unique is what happens next.
In this article, we are going to walk you through what hojicha is, what it tastes like and how to prepare it. Let’s get started! 🍵 🍃
What is Hojicha
The hojicha leaves are roasted in either a large pan or in a roasting machine.
Thus hojicha is categorised as a roasted tea. Roasted tea include teas such as: hojicha, kamairicha, roasted oolong tea, roasted cannabis tea and genmaicha. To learn more about roasted teas, we invite you to read the article 👉 All you need to know about Roasted Tea. But let's talk more about Hojicha!
While it is common for japanese green teas to be heated at many different stages in the production, this is usually done at very low temperatures and is used primarily for drying.
With hojicha, the heat applied is far more intense and it is done for a longer time. This completely transforms the tea leaf, and it turns the color from green to brown.
Hojicha explained and illustrated in video
What Does Hojicha Tea Taste Like?
What is even more remarkable than the transformation of the color of the hojicha is the transformation of the flavor. The hojicha tea is now almost unrecognizable from its original, unroasted state.
The flavor is not necessarily better or worse, it just becomes different. It trades these fresher notes of steamed vegetables and citrus for warmer notes of coffee, caramel and chocolate. The color of the hojicha tea also becomes red to brown, further demonstrating the massive transformation this tea undergoes.
The proper way to spell hojicha is actually hōjicha. Notice the line on top of the o in hōjicha. This is called a choōnpu which indicates a longer vowel sound. When pronouncing the first syllable of hōjicha, you can draw out the “o” sound so you are pronouncing it as hoojicha or houjicha, as it is often written.
When pronouncing Japanese words in general, it is important to learn the syllables. Most words are easy to pronounce in Japanese, because you can simply sound them out using the Hiragana or Katakana syllable alphabet.
History of Hojicha
In the 1920’s a tea merchant in Kyoto wanted to find a use for the leftover tea leaves and stems. While the youngest sprouts of the tea plant were reserved for premium teas, the older leaves were left over with not much they could be used for. The merchant found that by roasting these leaves, they produced a wonderful flavor and fragrance.
As with many other teas like genmaicha and kukicha, hojicha began as a way to get the most out of the tea harvest. At this point in time, tea was still a precious commodity, and the demand often exceeded the supply. A few innovative tea producers in Kyoto began to roast parts of the plant they wouldn’t otherwise sell, such as the stems and older leaves of the plant. This became a huge hit, and people all around Japan began to appreciate these more roasted flavors in their green tea. Eventually, producers began experimenting with different ways to make hojicha.
If you're interested in the history of Japanese tea, the article 👉 History of green tea in japan & Tea ceremony is made for you!
Japanese hojicha has undergone a lot of transformation over the years, but it is still well-loved today. If you visit Kyoto in the fall, you can still see people roasting the leaves in small roasting machines. The aroma of these fresh roasted leaves wafts through the air and draws you in to every tea shop. In the warmer months, people like to prepare Hojicha as a cold brew, to extract more of these caramel flavors. At certain tea shops around Japan, they will actually roast the tea by hand right in front of you. This is done in a special type of pan where the leaves can be heated over a flame or a stove and then poured directly into a tea pot. You also get the benefit of choosing which level of roast you want for the tea. Depending on how long the leaves are kept in the pan, they can produce a light, medium or dark roasted hojicha. This may require a lot of extra work, but it’s all worth it for the taste of freshly roasted hojicha! However you like to prepare hojicha green tea, I’m sure you will be glad you discovered it.
The process of how Hojicha Tea is made
Hojicha tea is made in one of two ways. It’s either pan fired, or its produced in a roasting machine.
The roasting machine looks almost like a cement mixer and it spins the leaves in a metal drum over a high heat. This makes sure that the leaves don’t burn, but rather toast slightly and take on a light brown color. The turning also keeps the roasting even, so each leaf has about the same level of roast.
When producing larger batches of Hojicha, the leaves need to be separated by size. The smaller leaves roast the quickest, so they need to be heated together and the larger leaves roast the slowest, so they are heated in a separate machine as well. Finally, the leaves are all combined once the desired level of roasting has been achieved.
Large hot pan
An alternative method we have seen is roasting the hojicha in a large hot pan. This is the same pan used to make Kamairicha or pan-fired tea. When we met with Mr. Issin, a farmer in Takachiho that makes both Kamairicha and Hojicha, he explained to us that if he wants to make hojicha, he has to roast the tea at a higher temperature for a longer time. He controls the temperature by putting a metal lid on top of the pan and letting the leaves roast for about 1 hour. Kamairicha is roasted at a lower temperature and for a shorter time, which is why it is only a partially roasted tea, with a flavor somewhere in between a hojicha and a sencha.
Tea master roast the hojicha by hand
There is a third way of producing japanese hojicha, but it is incredibly rare. At certain high-end tea shops, the tea master will roast the hojicha by hand. She will place tea leaves into a specialized porcelain pot and roast it over a flame. The leaves can then be poured out through the hollow side handle into a teapot and then brewed.
Types of Hojicha
Not all hojicha green tea is the same, depending on which parts of the tea plant are roasted and how strong the roast is, you can get completely different flavor profiles. Hojicha is normally made out of either sencha, bancha or kukicha. While it is far less common, we have also encountered hoji genmaicha and even roasted Gyokuro tea. Different parts of the tea plant not only taste different, but they also roast differently. Smaller more delicate leaves roast quicker than the thicker mature leaves you may find in a bancha. Hojicha can also be separated into light roast, medium roast and dark roast. Depending on how dark you like the flavor, you have many different options in the world of hojicha tea, similar to the world of coffee.
Kuki hojicha is also another delicious phenomenon. This tea is made from either the stems and leaves of the tea plant, or simply just the stems. By using just the stems of the tea plant, you are not only lowering the caffeine content but you are also able to get a darker roast. With this tea you get more of the hay or straw notes coming from the tea and in the case of the Kuki hojicha from Mr. Issin, you get a much darker flavor profile, almost like coffee. If you are looking for the best hojicha for coffee lovers, the Issin Kuki Hojicha is definitely the one!
Mr. Issin uses a unique method to produce his hojicha. While most hojicha teas are roasted in a large machine to get a uniform roast, Mr. Issin uses a technique that is a bit more nuanced for producing smaller batches of his famous Kuki hojicha. He actually roasts the tea leaves in a hot pan and they are automatically turned by a system of metal paddles. This process may take more time, and only allow smaller quantities to be produced, but it allows Mr. Issin to have more control over the roasting process and make sure the tea is roasted to perfection. He also uses this same machine to produce his Kamairicha, or partially roasted tea.
Kamairicha is somewhere in between a hojicha or fully roasted tea and a sencha or unroasted tea. This pan-firing method is common with Chinese green teas, but not with Japanese green teas, making Kamairicha an anomaly in Japan.
Although Kamairicha is uncommon in Japan as a whole, there are some areas where it has become a specialty, such as Miyazaki, where Mr. Issin lives. This Kamairicha is roasted in the same pan as the Kuki Hojicha, but this time it is left uncovered so it doesn’t get to as high of a temperature. It also is roasted for a shorter time, so instead of turning brown, the leaves only slightly change in color.
This tea really strikes a “sweet spot” in between roasted tea and unroasted tea. It has characteristics of each, but also it’s own which are entirely unique. The Kamairicha from Mr. Issin has these nutty flavor profiles like cashew, hazelnut and toasted almond. It also maintains some of it’s steamed vegetable characteristics you would expect from a Japanese green tea like sencha.
How to Brew Hojicha
Brewing hojicha tea is simple, you just need to follow a few basic steps.
It is important to point out that the brewing is quite different from that of a normal Japanese green tea like sencha, so make sure you pay attention to the details.
Step 1 - Measure the right quantity of Hojica
Measure out 5 grams of hojicha tea and put it into a teapot. The kyusu teapot works best for this, but make sure you use a glazed teapot as the unglazed teapot can becomes seasoned and disrupt the flavor of other green teas like gyokuro
Step 2 - Pour water
Pour in 150-200ml of water with a temperature of around 175 degrees fahrenheit. The temperature will be much hotter than a regular green tea, but this is not a problem for hojicha. The reason you use a lower temperature for most Japanese green teas is to avoid extracting catechins from the tea. A lot of these catechins are removed during the roasting process, the tea hojicha should be able to stand up to hotter temperatures without getting too bitter. The hotter water will also extract some of the warmer taste characteristics of the tea.
Step 3 - Let it brew
Allow the tea to brew for 1 minute. If you really like to brew dark hojicha tea, you can allow up to 2 minutes of brewing time, but 1 minute should be enough time to extract the flavor you want. These leaves are not tightly rolled like gyokuro, so after just 1 minute of brewing they should be able to open up and fully release their flavor into the water.
Step 4 - Enjoy your tea
Pour out the hojicha and enjoy your tea! The brewing will only stop once the leaves have been separated from the tea, so make sure you are using a kyusu teapot with a built in strainer. Alternatively, you can use another brewing vessel and pour the tea through a filter to separate out the leaves.
Similar to matcha, hojicha tea can be included in a variety of different recipes. For most of these recipes, it’s best to use hojicha powder. Hojicha powder is similar to matcha powder, but instead of being made from powdered tencha leaves, it is made from powdered hojicha leaves. This hojicha powder is extremely bitter when you drink it on it’s own, but it can work well when you mix it with sweeter ingredients.
Classic Hojicha Tea
This is the best way to enjoy hojicha tea, in its pure form. When you follow the brewing instructions above and prepare the tea without any additives, you can enjoy all the subtle taste characteristics of the tea. When you want to experience the true flavor of hojicha tea, this is the best way to do it. Of course you may want to experiment with the hojicha powder from time to time, and for that we have included the other recipes.
Hojicha latte with hojicha powder
Just as you can make a matcha latte with matcha powder, you can also make a hojicha latte with hojicha powder. All you need to do is follow these basic steps. You can also follow these steps if you want to make a hojicha milk tea. The only difference between a hojicha latte and a hojicha milk tea is the addition of the tapioca pearls.
Recipe of the Hojicha latte
Step 1: Sift in 3 teaspoons of hojicha powder into your matcha bowl.
Step 2: Add in 60ml of warm water
Step 3: Stir the hojicha powder into the water using a matcha whisk until it is mixed in evenly.
Step 4: Add in 200ml of warm soymilk, oatmilk or almond milk and mix up the latte
Step 5: Enjoy your hojicha latte! If you would like to make an iced hojicha latte, you can repeat these steps using cool water and cool oatmilk. Also serve the hojicha latte over ice to really keep it cool and refreshing.
Hojicha ice cream
Another often requested hojicha recipe is hojicha ice cream. In the past we have done videos on how to make matcha ice cream, and we are going to apply the same concept here.
Recipe of the Hojicha Ice Cream
Step 1: Sift in 3 teaspoons of hojicha powder into your matcha bowl.
Step 2: Add in 60ml of warm water
Step 3: Stir the hojicha powder into the water using a chasen matcha whisk until it is mixed in evenly.
Step 4: Scoop out some vanilla ice cream (or other neutral flavor)
Step 5: pour the hojicha paste on top of the ice cream and stir it in! This is the easiest way to make hojicha ice cream
If you would like to make a hojicha cake, you can follow this recipe below. Rather than making one big hojicha cake, it is easier to make a series of small hojicha cake
Ingredriants for the Hojicha cake
- ¾ cup mashed banana
- 60 g caster sugar
- 120 g cake flour/plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1.5 tbsp hojicha powder
- 50 ml oatmilk
- 30 ml corn oil
- 1 tbsp agave or maple syrup
Recipe of the Hojicha cake
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter up a small muffin pan with either Earth balance butter or cooking spreay. Add together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and hojicha powder and set aside. You can use a large mixing bowl for this
- Mix up oatmilk and corn oil, then you can add in the maple syrup or agave syrup and make sure you stir it well. You can then set this mixture aside and carry on to the next step.
- Now you will want to create a sweet batter by mixing together the bananas and sugar. Use a mixing bowl and blend them together for about 5 minutes until they are fluffy.
- Next you can sift in that flour mixture and combine it with the banana batter in 2 different portions. You can then gently mix it in with a rubber scraper or some other similar utensil..
- Make sure you stir the oatmilk mixture well and then you can scoop some batter into it to mix it up. Then pour the oatmilk mixture into the banana mixture and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula.
- Pour all this batter into a muffin pan until each muffin holder is just about full (90%). You can then bake the batter in the over for about 20 minutes. You will know it is done when you insert a skewer in the cake and it comes out clean.
- Release each hojicha cake from the muffin pan once it is done cooking and allow them to cool until you serve!
Similar to the recipe for hojicha ice cream, hojicha pudding is also very easy to create. This time, instead of adding the hojicha liquid to the pudding, just mix in the powder. You can mix in a teaspoon of powder with a quarter cup of pudding. Just make sure that you mix it in very well so no clumps begin to form. This can be a nice, simply treat to enjoy any time of year. The recipe for hojicha pudding is much less complicated than the recipe for hojicha cake for example, but it can be just as delicious!
Hojicha cookies are a great way to pair hojicha with chocolate. These two flavors share a lot in common and they go well together.
In this recipe, we will be making chocolate chip hojicha cookies that will pair well with a cup of hojicha tea or a hojicha latte.
Let’s get baking!
Ingredients for the Hojicha cookies
- 190 g (1 1/3 cups) all purpose flour
- 2.5 g (½ teaspoon) baking powder
- 3 g (½ teaspoon) baking soda
- 0.75 g (⅛ teaspoon) salt
- 10 g (2 tablespoons) hojicha powder
- 60 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 120 g (3/4 cup) brown sugar
- 90 ml (6 tablespoons) neutral oil (we used sunflower oil)
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) milk (we used soy milk)
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla
- 100 g (1/2 cup) chocolate chips
Recipe of the Hojicha cookies
- Mix up the 190 grams or 1 and ⅓ cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium or small bowl. You can set this flour mixture aside to be used later.
- Next, you will combine the hojicha powder along with the granulated sugar. You can also add in the brown sugar to make a large bowl of sweet hojicha mixture.
- Now it is time to add in the oil, oatmilk and vanilla. First add in the oil, stir it up, then add in the oatmilk and mix it well until all the ingredients are combined.
- Next, you can sift in that flour mixture you created earlier and lightly mix it until it is combined.
- You can now add in 100 g or ½ cup of chocolate chips, we prefer dark chocolate.
- Now you will want to leave this dough covered to cool in the fridge. This can be done for a minimum of one hour, but ideally it will be overnight.
- Next you can preheat the over to 375 degrees fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Now comes the fun part! Roll the dough into 12 balls of dough depending on how big you want the hojicha cookies to be. You may want to leave about 2 inches between each cookie to give them enough space to expand..
- Bake the hojicha cookies for 10 minutes until the edges begin to harden but the middle is slightly soft.
- Let the hojicha cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes.
- Gentl ymove the hojicha cookies onto a wire rack to full cool and firm up.
- Serve your freshly baked hojicha cookies with a hojicha tea or a hojicha latte!
What Is the Difference Between Hojicha and Matcha?
It is easy to see similarities between hojicha powder and matcha powder, particularly after looking at a few of these recipes. There are a few major differences between these two types of tea powders that are important to recognize.
A high quality matcha should be a dark jade green color. There are a few high quality Yabukita matcha powders that take on a much lighter green, and this is acceptable as well. If you were to select a very low quality matcha powder, you might end up with a dull green, yellow or even brown color. This is not a good sign!
Hojicha powder on the other hand will always be brown in color, no matter what quality you choose. There may be differences in color from dark brown to light brown, but this likely depends on the level of roast and the inclusion of the stems. This is mostly a stylistic choice in the hojicha powder and not a reliable way to determine quality.
Matcha powder will contain much higher levels of caffeine, amino acids and chlorophyll compared to hojicha powder. Because hojicha powder tends to be made from the older leaves and stems of the tea plant, and the tea is made from unshaded tea plants, the caffeine and theanine will be much lower.
The flavor of hojicha tea and matcha could not be more different. Matcha has these really strong, steamed vegetable flavors whereas hojicha is more on these warmer taste profiles of coffee, caramel and chocolate. The roasting process of hojicha removes these grassy taste profiles, whereas the flavors are magnified by grinding the tea leaves into a powder. This makes the two teas near opposites.
What are the benefits of Hojicha Tea?
This tea has a lot of benefits. Are you interested in learning all the benefits of hojicha in detail? Then checkout our article 👉 What are the different Hojicha Benefits. Otherwise, read our quick sum up bellow 👇
The advantage hojicha has over teas like sencha and matcha is that it is very low in caffeine. Hojicha can be enjoyed in the evening time because of its low caffeine content. There are two reasons why hojicha is low in caffeine. The first reason is that it is usually made from older tea leaves and stems, which contain lower levels of caffeine. The second reason is that some of the caffeine in the leaves is removed during the roasting process, leaving a green tea that has much less caffeine than sencha.
Hojicha caffeine is estimated to be between 7mg and 40mg of caffeine per cup. This means it is acceptable for people who are more sensitive to caffeine, or for those who are trying to cut back. There can be negative side effects of relying too heavily on caffeine, and hojicha is a good way to detox. You can think of it as the hojicha caffeine cleanse!
If you are searching for the tea with lowest caffeine in Japan, you will want to take a look at teas like bancha, genmaicha, kukicha and hojicha. But what are the lowest caffeine teas? If you're interest to find out the answer, we invite you to read the article 👉 Lowest Caffeine Tea: from Lowest to Highest.
Another benefit to Hojicha is that it tends to be much more affordable compared to other types of loose leaf green tea. A good tasting hojicha green tea can be half the price of a high grade sencha, and due to the roasting process, there is slightly less discrepancy between low grade and high grade hojicha.
This doesn’t mean that you can go for the cheapest hojicha and expect it to taste great, but it is much easier to find amazing hojicha tea at a more affordable price.
We even include hojicha on our top 4 of the best affordable loose leaf green tea! If you're interested to find out what are the best inexpensive loose leaf teas, we invite you to read the article 👉 List of the Best Cheap Loose Leaf Green Teas.
Choosing the Best Hojicha
When it comes to the best hojicha for beginners, we often point people towards the Noike hojicha. This tea is produced by Mr. Noike, who owns a small tea farm in a forest just outside of Kyoto. Because of the natural shading provided by the large pine trees that surround his forest, a lot of his teas take on a sweeter taste profile than they normally would. This makes the Noike Hojicha a much sweeter hojicha, with notes of caramel and chocolate. Kyoto is the origin of Japanese hojicha, and it still produces some of the best roasted teas. This hojicha from Mr. Noike is a proud representative of this great legacy.
How to make your own DIY Hojicha at home?
If you would like to try and make your own roasted tea at home, there is a trick you can use that works quite well. Just take a few grams of tea leaves and place them into a dry pan to roast over your stove. It will take about five minutes before you notice any roasting take place, but once it starts it will happen very quickly so keep an eye on the leaves. Once you have reached the desired level of roast, you can turn off the heat and brew your Hojicha tea right away.
Here is the complete step by step guide:
- Step 1 - Choose a great Kukicha for your roasted tea
- Step 2 - Warm up the pan and turn your Kukicha into a roasted tea
- Step 3 - Infuse your freshly made roasted tea in a Kyusu and enjoy!
Is Hojicha a type of Green Tea?
Although hojicha may look more like a black tea, it’s actually a type of green tea. The definition of green tea vs. black tea has nothing to do with the color, but rather the production of the tea. Black tea is a fully oxidized tea and green tea is an unoxidized tea. During the oxidation process, the catechins in the tea are converted into theaflavins and the color of the leaves turn into a reddish brown. The leaves used to make green tea are heated after harvest which stops the oxidation process. As a result, the green tea is able to retain more of its fresh vegetable taste characteristics, while black teas begin to drift into a warmer direction.
Because Hojicha goes through the same processing as other green teas and the oxidation process is halted, it is a type of green tea. Even though the leaves are then roasted afterwards and the color is changed to brown, hojicha tea still remains a type of Japanese green tea.
Can you cold brew Hojicha?
When we think of cold brewed green tea, we tend to think of the sweeter and fresher tea varieties like sencha and gyokuro, but hojicha can work great as well. In the warmer months in Japan, you may see cold brewed hojicha being served and it is definitely something worth trying if you get the chance. The cooler water brings out more of the sweet caramel notes, and less of the bitter smoky or wooden notes. The result is a tea that is somehow both warming and refreshing.
To learn more about cold brewing, we recommend you to read the article 👉 Cold Brew Green Tea explained by Tea Experts.
What's the difference between Sencha and Hojicha?
There are 8 differences between Sencha and Hojicha. Interested in the topic? Checkout our article 👉 Difference between Sencha vs Hojicha available on our blog! In this article, we’re going to compare hojicha vs sencha and see how the two teas differ. You’ll also learn how one subtle difference in the production process can lead to two completely different flavor profiles.
- Color of the leaves
- Appearance and color of the tea
Conclusion about Hojicha
No matter how you like to enjoy hojicha, whether it be hojicha tea, hojicha latte, hojicha ice cream, hojicha cake, hojicha pudding or hojicha cookies, you will be glad you added it to your life. There is something about the flavor of this roasted tea that makes it special. It also makes for a good food pairing, so it can be used in a variety of different treats. I hope you enjoyed this article and found a few helpful tips you can use on your hojicha tea journey.