Roasted tea has become quite popular in Japan and all around the world. These teas are made by taking green tea leaves and roasting them over high heat. During this process, the leaves change from green to brown, and the flavor begins to take on warmer notes of coffee, caramel and chocolate.
To learn more about roasted teas, we took a trip over to Takachiho, a small town in Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture.
What are the different types of roasted teas?
There are a few main types of roasted tea we can discuss today including hojicha, kamairicha, roasted oolong tea, roasted cannabis tea and genmaicha green tea with roasted rice. Let’s take a brief look at each one of these teas, how its made and what it looks like.
Hōjicha is a Japanese green tea. It is distinctive from other Japanese green teas because it is roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal. It is roasted at 150° C to prevent oxidation and produce a light golden colour, as opposed to other Japanese teas which are steamed.
Hojicha is one of our favourite roasted tea. We have a detail article called 👉 Everything You Need to Know About Hojicha in which we are going to walk you through what hojicha is, what it tastes like and how to prepare it.
Hojicha is a fully roasted tea and it is immediately recognizable because the leaves are this dark brown color instead of green.
The tea itself becomes a reddish brown color and even though this makes it look like a black tea, this is actually a type of green tea because it is unoxidized.
The taste of this tea falls much more heavily onto these warmer notes of coffee, caramel and chocolate. The flavor of this roasted tea is almost the complete opposite of a tea like sencha, which typically has these fresh grassy, steamed vegetable or citrusy flavor profiles.
Hojicha was invented in Kyoto in the early 20th century. Normally, the stems and older leaves of the tea plant would be discarded, as they couldn’t be used in popular teas like sencha. The tea merchant had the idea to roast these stems and leaves to create a roasted tea. People soon began to fall in love with the tea, and now it is celebrated all around the world! While it is a cheaper tea, it is still delicious in its own right, and many people prefer the taste to more expensive green teas.
If you're interested in the history of Japanese tea, the article 👉 History of green tea in japan & Tea ceremony is made for you!
Genmaicha green tea with roasted rice
Genmaicha is a Japanese brown rice green tea consisting of green tea mixed with roasted popped brown rice. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as "popcorn tea" because a few grains of the rice pop during the roasting process and resemble popcorn, or as "people's tea", as the rice served as a filler and reduced the price of the tea, making it historically more available for poorer Japanese. Today all segments of society drink genmaicha.
If you want to learn more about genmaicha, we have a detail article called 👉 Essential Genmaicha Guide by Japanese Tea Experts. We’re explaining what genmaicha is in detail, the entire production process and what you can use it for.
Genmaicha green tea with roasted rice is perhaps one of the most popular types of roasted teas around the world.
It is easy to spot because of the bright orange grains of toasted rice or “genmai” mixed into the leaves. This tea is commonly found at tea shops and cafes around the world!
The taste of Genmaicha green tea with roasted rice falls more on these starchy cereal notes, which can be quite soothing. The tea leaves and the toasted rice compliment each other beautifully, and this tea really evolves from brewing to brewing.
Genmaicha green tea with roasted rice began as a way to get through times of economic hardship. To make the tea last longer, people would add toasted rice to it. This also made it easier to go without food, as the flavor of genmaicha green tea with roasted rice simulated a nice warm bowl of rice. In a later section we will show you how to roast rice for tea and make your own genmaicha at home!
While genmaicha is the most common blended tea in Japan, sencha is the most common tea altogether. If you're interested in learning the differences between these two teas, you can learn all about it in our article 👉 Sencha vs Genmaicha
Kamairicha is a Japanese green tea produced by pan-frying tea leaves during the early stages of production. It is most commonly produced in the western region of Japan. Kamairicha has a mildly roasted flavour with more sweet and fresh notes than bitter ones.
But why are Kamairicha, Hojicha or Genmaicha green tea producing a brown cup of tea? Of course because they are roasted teas, but not only! It is a thing that people ask us quite often, and we decided to write an entire article to cover the topic. In this essay, we’re tackling why that might be. To read it, click on the link of the article 👉 Why is my green tea brown?
Kamairicha is only a partially roasted tea, so the leaves will not be quite as immediately recognizable compared to a fully roasted tea like hojicha. Kamairicha will take on a light, olive green color normally and because the leaves are turned in a hot pan, they will have a curled shape rather than the needle shapes you will see in a typical sencha or gyokuro. The tea itself will be a beautiful bright golden color.
The taste of kamairicha is somewhere in between a non roasted tea like sencha and a fully roasted tea like hojicha. You may notice flavors of cashew, caramel and toasted almonds on the warmer side. On the more vegetal side, you can also get seaweed and steamed vegetable tasting notes. This makes the tea quite complex, as the flavor evolves from brewing to brewing.
The pan firing method used to make kamairicha began to increase in popularity in China at the start of the Ming dynasty. In the 15th century, the iron pot was introduced to the southern island of kyushu. Nowadays, the steaming method is more popular in Japan and the pan-firing method is more popular in China, but in certain regions you still can find kamairicha being produced. This is why kamairicha tastes more like a Chinese green tea than other Japanese green teas.
Roasted Oolong Tea
Oolong is a traditional semi-oxidized Chinese tea produced through a process including withering the plant under strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting. Most oolong teas, especially those of fine quality, involve unique tea plant cultivars that are exclusively used for particular varieties. Usually, Oolong tea is not roasted but sometimes, it can be the case.
Roasted Oolong Tea is easy to recognize because of its dark brown curled leaves. When you brew the tea, it can produce a liquor anywhere from amber to ruby. You can either find it in the strip shape, where the leaves appear larger or the ball shape where the leaves appear smaller in tightly rolled pellets. Roasted Oolong Tea is very common in both Taiwan and China and it is now Roasted Oolong Tea is the most common form of oolong.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the taste of Roasted Oolong Tea is “toast”. The flavor is not smoky, but it does have this warm toasted almond flavor generally. There may be hints of sweetness like honey or brown sugar, but it mostly walks this line between nuttiness and a mouthwatering astringency.
No one really knows when Roasted Oolong Tea began being made. It came out of a type of “dark age” where not much was written down but rather passed through word of mouth. The charcoal baking technique used to make Roasted Oolong Tea began as a way to dry tea leaves in Fujian during the late Ming and Early Qing dynasties. The tea undoubtably oxidized partially during this process and then the oxidation was stopped by the heating to produce a partially oxidized Roasted Oolong Tea. These Roasted Oolong Tea from Wu Yi Shan was named “wulong” which means black dragon because the appearance of the curled and twisted leaves resembled the appearance of the mythical Chinese dragon.
Does roasting green tea lower the caffeine content?
During the roasting process, the caffeine content is only slightly reduced. The reason that roasted tea tends to have a much lower caffeine content compared to un roasted tea is actually not due to the roasting process itself, but rather the selection of leaves. A roasted tea is likely to be made from older tea leaves, like those used to make bancha. The older tea leaves and stems of the tea plant are significantly lower in caffeine than the younger leaves used to make sencha, gyokuro and matcha. For this reason, roasted tea tends to have about half the caffeine as a tea like sencha.
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? Find out the answer in our article called 👉 Lowest Caffeine Tea: from Lowest to Highest.
How to make your own DIY roasted tea?
One great added bonus of kukicha is that you can easily use it to roast your own hojicha at home. This can be difficult to do with leaf teas because the leaves take a long time to heat up and then they tend to burn very quickly. Because the stems are lighter, they roast very quickly and evenly, making them easy for an untrained tea roaster! Let’s dive right into this fun kukicha project.
Step 1 - Choose a great Kukicha for your roasted tea
For this experiment, the best kukicha to make homemade roasted tea is the kukicha osada. This tea has slightly drier tasting notes that translate very well when it becomes a roasted tea. The tea is very light and it’s easy to get a good roast on it.
The kukicha sakamoto can also work well, but it is a much sweeter tea. When it is turned into a roasted tea, the kukicha sakamoto produces a much richer and brothier consistency in the tea. While this may be enjoyable for some tea drinkers, it’s generally not what you would find in a roasted tea, so it’s best to start out with the kukicha osada if you can.
Step 2 - Warm up the pan and turn your Kukicha into a roasted tea
The next step is to put your kukicha tea in the pan and turn on the heat. You can start off with a high heat to get things going, but you’ll want a medium heat during the roasting process. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated kitchen, as this can set off the smoke alarm!
You may find that not much will happen for about 5 minutes. Just keep turning the leaves, and check for any signs of the kukicha changing colors or smoking. Once the roasting starts, it will really happen all at once so you’ll have to frantically start turning your leaves all at once.
Once the stems start to turn a yellowish brown, you may want to turn off the heat. It is better to turn the heat off too early rather than too late, as the kukicha will continue to cook in the pan even after the heat is switched off. Try to be extra careful here, no one likes an over roasted tea.
Step 3 - Infuse your freshly made roasted tea in a Kyusu and enjoy!
Once the leaves are done, put 5 grams into your teapot and prepare your cup of freshly roasted tea! Make sure you take the time to really evaluate the flavor of this tea, and see if you can compare it to other roasted tea like hojicha. Maybe you want to give the kukicha a heavier or lighter roast next time, or maybe the flavor is just right! Whatever the case may be, you can adapt this overtime and get better at kukicha roasting!
DIY roasted tea: explanatory video
How to roast rice for tea?
With the popularity of genmaicha green tea with roasted rice it is no surprise that people often ask how to roast rice for tea. There are a lot of recipes about how to roast rice for tea online, but a lot of them don’t achieve the consistency you will want for your genmaicha. First we will discuss the common, incorrect way how to roast rice for tea, and then we will attempt to find the best way how to roast rice for tea at home.
How to roast rice for tea - Pan Method
There is a reason why you simply can’t use a pan to heat dry rice to make genmaicha green tea with roasted rice. If you ever take a quick look at genmaicha green tea with roasted rice you will notice that the grains of rice are very crispy, and you can even crunch them in your hand. If you try roasting dry rice in you pan, you will end up with a very hard dry rice that won’t work well in genmaicha. So what is the answer to how to roast rice for tea? It’s a bit more complicated as you will see in the next method.
How to roast rice for tea - Proper method
For this method of how to roast rice for tea, we will take you through each step to get the proper consistency for your genmaicha green tea with roasted rice.
Choose White rice
First, you will want to start with white rice. While the word genmai does technically mean brown rice, a better translation is toasted rice. Brown rice has a protective hull outside which locks in the starches. When these starches are cooked properly, they become really crispy and delicious and that's why genmaicha green tea with roasted rice is always made with white rice instead of brown.
Put the white rice into a pot or a rice cooker
Next, you can put the white rice into a pot or a rice cooker, and cook it just like you would normally except this time use twice the amount of water and turn it to make “sticky” rice. Next, you can layout this rice onto a silicone baking mat and put it in the over at 130 degrees fahrenheit for about 2 hours. Instead of “cooking” the rice, here you are essentially drying it. Make sure you spread the rice out so it is not on top of eachother.
Once it's dry, you can roast it up in a pan
Now that the rice is slightly dry, you can roast it up in a pan. When the rice is done, it will take on a orangish brown color and be a little bit crunchy. Now you have learned how to roast rice for tea and you can add this delicious toasted rice to your favorite bancha or sencha to make genmaicha green tea with roasted rice.
6 Health benefits of roasted tea:
Roasted tea can have a plethora of benefits to it. Let’s take the time to briefly cover a few of them here.
#1 Roasted tea is Ideal for caffeine sensitivities
Roasted teas tend to be lower in caffeine, but they are still packed with flavor. This makes them a great choice for people who are sensitive to caffeine. If you like the taste of coffee but are trying to cut back on caffeine, roasted tea can also be a good choice for you. The flavor of roasted tea is very similar to that of coffee, but it doesn’t have all the caffeine that makes you jittery, so it can be a good replacement.
#2 Roasted tea Relieves stressful days at the office or at home
Roasted tea is a very soothing and warming tea. Instead of these vibrant, fresh grassy flavors, the tea has more of these calming caramel or chocolate flavors and aromas. This can be just what you need when you are trying to relax or destress.
#3 Roasted tea Keeps your skin looking clear and youthful
Like other types of green teas, roasted tea is full of antioxidants which can help to protect the body against age related damage.
#4 Roasted tea Fights colds and keeps your immune system strong
It is no secret that green tea is great for the immune system and roasted teas are no exception. These roasted teas have catechins in them which can be great during cold and flu season, or when you are feeling under the weather.
#5 Roasted tea Helps digestion
Green tea contains polyphenols that can help with digestion. Drinking green tea regularly can help the body break down food more effectively and because the roasted tea is a type of green tea, it can also be a good thing to drink for your gut health. Researchers have also found that the EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) can help to reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
#6 Roasted tea helps protects your teeth
A new study that was recently published in the journal Preventive Medicine presented the benefits that tea can have on teeth and gums. According to the results of this study, people who drank green tea were found to have superior oral health compared to those who did not drink green tea. The researchers theorized that the antimicrobial molecules called catechins that are found in green tea and oolong tea were among the reasons for the apparent improvement in the subjects oral health. Catechins have been known to kill bacteria associated with tooth decay and gum disease, which can prevent tooth loss and other oral health problems.
What is Hojicha powder?
Hojicha powder has become popular for making hojicha lattes. This is essentially a ground up roasted tea, in the same way that matcha is a ground tencha tea. Even thought this tea is in a powdered form like matcha, the taste profile is completely different. It can take on a very powerful, bitter and even smoky flavor profile. For this reason it is not recommended that you drink it plain, but rather that you mix it with oatmilk and sugar to make a hojicha latte.
Can you roast other teas?
You can make other types of roasted tea at home just like we did with the kukicha. During our travels around Japan, we have experienced roasted genmaicha and even a roasted gyokuro! Once you get experienced with how to make your own roasted tea at home, you can start to experiment with all sorts of different tea blends and see which ones you like most!
Where is roasted tea produce in Japan?
The question where does roasted tea is produced has a lot of different answers. To sum up, there are 6 main regions where Japanese tea grow: Shizuoka, Kagoshima, Kyoto, Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Mie Tea.
If you want to learn about this regions and tea productions, we recommend you to read the article 👉 Where Does Japanese Tea Grow? For this article, we'll focus on the best roasted tea regions: Takachiho and Shizuoka.
Roasted tea in Takachiho
Here in the mountains of Takachiho, Mr. Issin is hard at work crafting beautiful roasted tea to share with people all around the world. Mr. Issin lives on this small farm with his family in their 200 year old house. Right next to their house, he turns tea leaves into this incredible roasted tea like Kamairicha, a partially roasted tea in between Hojicha and sencha.
As we mentioned before, the roasting process reduces the amount of polyphenols in the tea, so instead of having this strong grassy flavor, it has a warmer, more chocolaty flavor. With the partially roasted tea (kamairicha) the leaves are roasted at a lower heat for less time and with the fully roasted Hojicha, the leaves are roasted at a higher heat for more time. To regulate the temperature of the pan, Mr. Issin can leave the metal lid on top in order to trap in more heat and raise the temperature a few degrees.
Because the Kamairicha is heated under a less intense heat, it still maintains some of its greener flavor profiles. The tea balances out these warm nutty flavors with notes of spinach and even a hint of seaweed.
Roasted tea in Shizuoka
On one of our trips to Shizuoka, we met with the owners of Marufuku to taste a few of their teas. They source their tea from all over Japan and then process it in this facility here. After a careful roasting process, they produce this incredibly fine Hojicha, a fully roasted tea. For our visit of the facility, they decided to cold brew some of the tea for us to try.
Cold brewing extracts more of the sweet components from the leaves and less of the bitterness. This works great for roasted tea, particularly when it gets a bit warmer out. This cold brewed Hojicha was sweet and chocolaty and is definitely a delicious treat you can add to your routine if you have the time. Just add some leaves to a pitcher, pour in 500ml of cold water and let the tea sit overnight. In the morning you should have a refreshing pitcher filled with cold roasted tea.