For some hojicha may not qualify as tea since it is mostly made out of stalks, stems and petioles rather than tea leaves (not even referring to buds). For the same reasons, hojicha has almost no caffeine. It has a history of 100 years and it was invented by a tea merchant in Kyoto who decided to roast a batch of ageing tea (as we know green tea is only good when it’s fresh). He finds out the taste has a smooth nutty flavour. Another story which is not completely in conflict with this one suggests that hojicha was invented indirectly as a result of mechanisation in tea harvesting which leads to a lot of debris (aka trash). And in Japanese culture reducing waste is essential. Hence, a tea dealer (possibly the same one as in the first story) experimented by roasting the leftover debris in a porcelain container to produce hojicha.
I am not sure when these two stories were married, but they both tell us something about this tea. It’s made out of ‘undesired’ parts of a tea plant or ‘unwanted’ aged green tea. This makes hojicha more affordable than other green teas such as sencha or matcha.
When I tried this tea, I thought it tastes like something between a (below average) highly oxidised oolong and a shu pu-erh tea. Later, I was surprised how strong its caramel and malt notes were. It will take a while until getting used to this taste which probably I will need to given that the number of hojicha flavoured products in the market is increasing. At least I am convinced that hojicha latte seems to be following the steps its noble cousin matcha.
Harvest time: 2019
Leave colour: Dark brown with reddish stalks and stems
Liquor colour: Cupper
Tea aroma: Smoky and malt
Tea taste: Caramel and hints of nuttiness
Steeping/brewing:You can use around 85°C water temperature and brew for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to one year. (the fresher the better)