Healthy, Low-Caffeine & Delicious: Hojicha Tea

Hojicha latte on a mossy log in the forest

The enchanting landscape of Japanese tea culture offers a plethora of flavors, each one representing a unique facet of tradition and innovation. Among these tea varieties, often overshadowed by its more illustrious cousin, matcha, is the lesser-known yet equally captivating hojicha. With its delightful roasty aroma and subdued flavor, hojicha has been quietly winning the hearts of tea lovers around the world.

Pronounced ho-jee-cha, this tea stands out from other varieties of Japanese green tea due to its unique roasting process. In Japanese, the word ‘hoji’ means roast and ‘cha’ means tea. The roasted tea takes on a light brown color and nutty aroma that is very different from the more well-known varieties of green tea.

In this exploration of hojicha, we will journey into its origins, preparation, and potential health benefits.

The history & origins of hojicha

Hojicha is believed to have originated in Kyoto, Japan around the 1920s or 1930s. The tea was developed as a way to use the surplus or lower-grade tea leaves that were not suitable for more premium green teas like matcha.

Roasting the leaves, stems, and twigs of the tea plant served the dual purpose of making use of the “waste” material and creating a new, flavorful tea. Hojicha gained popularity in Japan after World War II when there was a focus on resourcefulness and making the most of what was available.

The inviting aroma of brewed hojicha is said to have lured passersby into tea shops. The tea became a staple in Japanese households and to this day is often enjoyed as an everyday tea due to its comforting flavor and lower cost.

What does hojicha taste like?

Hojicha is made from the same plant as matcha, Camellia sinensis. Matcha maintains its bright green color from the careful process of selecting only the leaves, and then steaming them and stone grinding them into a fine powder. 

However, in the production of hojicha, the tea leaves, stems, and twigs are slowly roasted over charcoal. This gives the tea a light brown color and roasted flavor that is quite different from matcha. The upfront grassy flavor associated with matcha is subdued in hojicha, outweighed by flavor notes of toasted rice, malted milk, and even a hint of chocolate.

Roasting the tea leaves produces pyrazines, lessening the tea’s characteristic bitterness as well as lowering the caffeine content. This contributes to the aroma of a freshly brewed cup of hojicha, which can be described as earthy, smoky, and sweet.

Hojicha may be more appealing to those who find the grassy or astringent notes of other green teas to be overwhelming. Its mild and roasted flavor profile makes it suitable for a wide range of palates.

The health benefits of hojicha

Many people enjoy green tea for its purported health benefits. The advantages attributed to hojicha are associated with its unique roasting process and the properties of the tea leaves. Here are some of the possible benefits of drinking hojicha:

1. Hojicha is high in antioxidants

Hojicha, like other green teas, contains antioxidants, such as catechins, which are known for their ability to combat free radicals in the body. Antioxidants play a role in reducing oxidative stress and may contribute to overall well-being. They may also help protect the skin from the effects of free radicals and contribute to a healthier complexion.

2. Hojicha is low in caffeine

The parts of the tea plant used to make hojicha, including mature leaves, stems, and twigs, are naturally lower in caffeine. In addition, the roasting process further eliminates the caffeine content. A cup of hojicha only contains 7-8 mg of caffeine, similar to a cup of decaf coffee. This makes it a great beverage for people who are sensitive to caffeine or trying to cut back. It can even be a lovely night time beverage.

3. Drinking hojicha tea may have digestive benefits

Some individuals find that hojicha is gentler on the stomach compared to other green teas. The roasting process may help reduce the tea's astringency, making it a more suitable choice for those with sensitive stomachs. The catechins may also increase metabolism.

4. The L-theanine content may help with stress relief

Hojicha tea is high in L-theanine, an amino acid that has been associated with feelings of relaxation and stress reduction. 

5. Hojicha supports a healthy immune system

With its high antioxidant levels, antiviral and antibacterial properties, hojicha and other green teas have been shown to support a strong immune system. Hojicha also contains Vitamins A, C, and E, which contribute to immune system regulation and are known for fighting the common cold.

How to prepare hojicha

A cup of brewed hojicha latte

How to prepare hojicha depends on which type of tea you have. You can find hojicha as a loose leaf tea, a fine concentrated powder, or a premixed latte powder. Each will give a slightly different flavor profile.

The traditional way to brew hojicha is with a clay teapot. For loose leaf tea, steep tea leaves in hot water for just 30 - 60 seconds before straining. Brewing for much longer can result in a bitter taste.

If you’re using a fine hojicha powder, the best way to make your tea is to use a bamboo whisk or a milk frother. Begin by whisking together one teaspoon of hojicha powder with a small amount of water. Once all the clumps are dissolved and you have a smooth mixture, add the remaining hot water or milk and stir well.

You can also buy a hojicha latte mix that’s ready to go. Our CinderBird Hojicha Latte is blended with plant-based milks and lightly sweetened with coconut sugar, so all you have to do is whisk it with hot water. Plus, it’s infused with health-promoting ingredients and adaptogens like reishi mushroom.

The subtle nutty flavor of hojicha is also enjoyed in culinary preparations. Its roasted leaves or powder are often used in cooking and baking. Hojicha flavored desserts, ice cream, and even savory dishes have become popular, showcasing the versatility of this roasted green tea.

Where to buy hojicha

Hojicha is still not super common in the US. You may be able to find it in some specialty tea shops, but online retailers are a better bet. Look for trustworthy sellers that use high-quality hojicha that’s tested and doesn’t contain any additives.

If you’re looking for a delicious hojicha latte that’s easy to whip up, try our Instant Hojicha Latte. It contains a blend of oat milk, coconut milk, hojicha, and functional mushrooms that’s lightly sweetened with coconut sugar. All you need to do is add hot water and you’ve got a creamy, perfect balanced hojicha latte.

Hojicha stands as a testament to the ingenuity of Japanese tea culture. From its humble origins in Kyoto to becoming a beloved staple in Japanese households, hojicha's journey reflects the artful transformation of what was once considered a waste product into a warm and inviting beverage. Its comforting aroma, nutty flavor, and versatility make hojicha an understated gem.

However, hojicha’s recognition is growing in many parts of the world as people discover its unique flavor and potential health benefits. If you haven’t tried hojicha yet, now’s your chance! You’ll be delighted by its comforting flavor that’s both familiar and unique. 

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