Hojicha Complete Guide by Japanese Tea Experts

Hojicha is very unique in the world of Japanese tea because of both its color and its taste. While most Japanese green teas have a yellowish green color to them, Hojicha takes on a reddish brown hue. The flavor is a lot stronger on these warmer taste profiles like coffee caramel and chocolate. In this article, we’re going to briefly discuss what hojicha is, how it’s made and what the benefits of it are. Without further ado, let’s get started.



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What is Hojicha

Hojicha is one of the more common types of Japanese green tea. It's made from roasted tea leaves and it’s commonly served in tea shops and restaurants all across Japan. In the colder months in places like Uji and Kyoto, you may notice certain vendors roasting the hojicha leaves in the street. Nothing compares to the aroma of freshly roasted tea leaves wafting through the brisk fall air.


How is Hojicha Made?

Hojicha 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.

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.

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.


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.


What are the Benefits of Hojicha

Hojicha green tea is loved by many mainly due to its warm roasted flavor profiles, but there are other reasons to love it as well. 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.

Another benefit to Hojicha is that it tends to be much more affordable compared to other types of Japanese 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, like the Noike Hojicha for example.


What are the Different Kinds of Hojicha?

Regular Hojicha

When most people think of hojicha tea, this is usually what comes to mind. it’s a blend of stems and leaves but its predominantly leaves. The top 3 leaves of the tea plant are the most sought after, and therefore they are reserved for premium sencha, gyokuro and matcha, but the older more mature leaves are used to make hojicha. These are the leaves that are used for bancha, another low caffeine Japanese green tea.

Kuki Hojicha

Kuki Hojicha is a roasted tea made predominantly from the stems of the tea plant. Because the stems are lower in caffeine than the leaves, and some of the caffeine is removed in the roasting process, this is an incredibly low caffeine tea. If you are not sensitive to caffeine, you can likely drink this tea in the evening time without having any trouble sleeping. The stems and leaves roast differently, so this tea takes on a different taste profile compared to its leafy counterpart.


Hoji Genmaicha

As you may be able to tell by the name, this is a roasted genmaicha tea. It’s made by combining roasted tea leaves with roasted rice. Because roasted rice doesn’t have any caffeine in it, the caffeine level of this tea is brought down. This is a tea we were first introduced to by the farmer at Zenkouen, and he explained this is a good tea to give to children because it is so low in caffeine.


How was Hojicha first discovered?

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. Soon people all around Japan began to celebrate this Japanese hojicha, and now it is one of the more common teas you will find in Japan.


Is it Possible to make a Hojicha Latte?

You may have heard of a hojicha latte and this can actually be a delicious way to enjoy hojicha tea. What you will need to get is hojicha powder. Similar to a matcha latte, hojicha powder can really concentrate the flavor of the tea so you can taste it through the milk and sugar. This hojicha powder is incredibly bitter when you drink it plain, but mixed with milk and sugar it creates a perfect balance. Once you find the best hojicha powder, you should be able to start making incredible hojicha lattes at home.

While it may not be as popular as a matcha latte, the hojicha latte can be a great warm tea to enjoy on a brisk fall morning. While it may be more associated with the colder months, an iced hojicha latte can be a great treat in the summer time. You can make the hojicha latte just as you would make a matcha latte but instead of using matcha powder, use hojicha powder.


What is the Difference Between Hojicha Powder and Matcha

While hojicha powder and matcha powder are often compared with one another, they couldn’t be more different. Even the best hojicha powder can be extremely bitter, and that’s why it’s best to only use it in hojicha lattes. The leaves used to make matcha have to go through an incredibly long production process in order to remove all the bitterness. They are shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest, only the top 3 leaves are selected and they even have their stems removed. When you grind tea into a powder, you concentrate the flavor so you really need to make sure all the bitterness is removed. Hojicha powder on the other hand does not go through all these steps, and as a result the taste isn’t nearly as smooth.


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.


How to prepare Hojicha tea?

The process of preparing hojicha green tea is similar to any other type of Japanese tea with one notable exception and that is temperature. The reason green teas, particularly Japanese green teas need to be brewed at a lower temperature is because of the catechins.

Catechins are the bitter components of the tea plant that are brought out as a protection against the UV light. These bitter catechins are harder to extract, and they require hotter temperatures. Once they are extracted, they can completely dominate the taste profile of the cup of tea. That’s why if you boil a cup of sencha tea, you won’t be able to taste much beyond the intense bitterness.

The catechins can be removed from the leaf through oxidation or roasting. As a result, roasted teas and oxidized teas (like black tea and oolong) have less catechins in them, and therefore can stand up to hotter temperatures. Because hojicha has less catechins, it can be brewed at hotter temperatures without it being overcome with bitterness. We recommend to use a temperature of around 175 degrees fahrenheit or 80 degrees celsius.

Step 1: add 5 grams of hojicha tea leaves into the base of your kyusu teapot

Step 2: pour in 150ml of hot water

Step 3: let the tea sit undisturbed for 1 minute with the top on

Step 4: pour the tea out and enjoy!


Where to Buy Hojicha Tea

If you're looking to try some great hojicha, you can find it on our website. We meet with small farmers all across Japan to find the best Japanese green tea grown without the use of pesticides. We recommend going for this <a href=" https:="">hojicha bundle which includes 3 different kinds of hojicha as well as the famous Kamairicha from Takachiho.