The Ultimate Guide to Houjicha (Houji-Tea) 2022
The well-known Japanese tea with the captivating and heartwarming aroma of roasted green tea.
This article was last modified Dec 11th, 2021. by Yuki
While most Japanese teas focus more on the "umami" and "astringency" tastes that fill the mouth, there are some Japanese teas that focus more on the aroma of the tea.
The "Houjicha" or the "Houji Tea" is perhaps the most well-known tea in that category. Here, we will cover everything you need to know about Houjicha.
Introduction - What is Houjicha?
The Houjicha (also spelled Hojicha, or Hoji-tea) is becoming more and more common - even outside of Japan!
You may have noticed the name at your nearest supermarket - as a flavour of an ice-cream. Perhaps you've come across a "Houjicha Latte" at your nearby Starbucks. You may be quite surprised, but actually, houjicha is also a type of Japanese green tea.
Yes, it does not look green at all - you may have noticed the leaves of the tea above. It's more of a brownish red colour. So why is it considered a type of green tea?
The term "Houjicha" written in Japanese.
In Japanese, the term "houji" refers to a cooking method in which you "roast until the leaves turn into a brownish colour".
So Houjicha, in fact, is just a normal Japanese green tea - usually a Bancha (a relatively economical type of Japanese green tea) is used - which is roasted under strong fire until it changes colours.
The Houjicha pictured above is one that uses first flush Kukicha, or twig tea leaves instead. So there is definitely a wide spectrum when it comes to the quality of Houjicha.
While the roasting process does reduce the nutrients of the green tea, its popularity has been increasing lately in Japan as well.
The health benefits of Houjicha, along with its gentle taste and wallet-friendly price are the reasons for this recent boom.
This is also why Houjicha is a great choice to be incorporated into your daily use.
Unlike other green tea, you can drink a lot as well, as the roasting significantly reduces the caffeine contained. It's perfect for quenching thirst.
The Taste of Houjicha
By far the biggest appeal of the Houjicha is its aroma.
It has a very unique, gentle and sometimes smoky, sometimes floral aroma that is produced from roasting the leaves until the humidity is gone and the leaves turn brown. This scent is called the "hika" or the "baisenka" in Japanese.
The taste of the tea is usually very light. However, this differs depending on the quality of Houjicha you buy.
If you buy high quality Houjicha, you may be surprised at how rich the taste and aroma may be.
It adds a great thick body to the characteristic aroma of the tea, ending up in an extremely satisfying taste. These are Houjicha made from Sencha or Kukicha, with rich nutrients still remaining in the tea to create that rich taste.
The Houjicha pictured above is a high-end Houjicha. Research shows that Houjicha such as these have the same aromatic substances as that of flowers such as roses or lavendar flowers.
You'll be surprised at how strong and defined these floral aromatics can be!
On the other hand, if you buy normal Houjicha, it may feel extremely light and lack the punch or accent you would want in a tea.
Houjicha like this may be made from Bancha, which contain relatively less nutrients to start with. As they are roasted, even more nutrients are broken down, resulting in the light end product.
Even these cheaper Houjicha products will still have the rich aroma quality. Actually, Houjicha originated as a means to improve these lower-grade tea products. By roasting them, it will boost the aroma and make them a lot more enjoyable. The taste will reduce - but the low quality teas wouldn't have too much taste anyways.
It also doesn't hurt that Houjicha is usually very affordable. It's extremely suited for the "everyday Japanese Tea" choice.
The Health Benefits of Houjicha
Now let's look into the health benefits of Houjicha.
Houjicha contains the usual health benefits which you will find in other green tea. This includes many powerful health nutrients such as Catechin, Theanine, and Vitamin C. You can read more about this here.
However, because they go through additional roasting, the levels of these nutrients may not be as high as other green tea. The good part is, the caffine level is also low!
Through the process of roasting the green tea, a substance called Parazine is produced. This Parazine is responsible for the gentle smoky aroma of Houjicha. Parazine not only smells nice, but also is an amino acid with some valuable health benefits. It is said to have relaxation effects, and also improve your blood flow.
Different Names of Houjicha
How to prepare a delicious cup of Houjicha?
3 heaping tsp
100 degrees Celsius
Instructions on how to brew Houjicha
The key for hojicha is a quick infusion with hot water to extract the aroma to the max. Use boiling water at 100 degrees. Seep for 30 seconds. Unleash the Aroma!
Houjicha is generally good for two to three infusions as well. For the following infusions, use the same boiling water. The seeping time can be much shorter - in fact, you don't have to wait! You can start pouring immediately after you add water into the tea leaves.
Soft water with hardness of between 30 to 80 is said to be the best for extracting the taste and aroma. The tap water in Singapore is "moderately soft", which makes it perfect for Japanese Tea.
With the above being said, it really depends on the Houjicha what the best way to brew would be. Some Houjicha require more tea leaves, and some Houjicha is actually better at a slightly lower temperature. I always really recommend to enjoy experimentation so you can find the most suitable way of preparing your Houjicha.
How is it made? (Manufacturing Method)
The Houjicha that I bought is more yellow than brown. Is even has some green in it too. Does this mean that the Houjicha isn't roasted well enough?
A: Your Hojicha has no issues at all. As a matter of fact, there is a chance that it can be a high quality Houjicha.
This is a "light roasted" Houjicha. It means that the Houjicha is not roasted as much as others.
Houjichas have different levels of roasting. Some are roasted strong, but some are roasted only lightly. This depends on how the teamaster sees the tea and wants to make the Houjicha.
If you have low quality tea, it's common to do a relatively deep roast. This is to maximize the aroma as much as possible, as low quality tea don't have too much umami and other "taste" nutrients to begin with.
However, if the teamaster is using a high-quality tea, there are a few options to go by. You can still go for deep roasting to convert the abundant nutrients into an overflowing delight of aroma, or you can choose to light roast, in which case it preserves the umami in the tea while adding to the fantastic aroma of Houjicha.
That's why if you see a light roasted Houjicha, most likely the tea master had a choice of light roasting it as it was a high quality tea.
(This is a generalization, so may not apply for all cases)
An example of light roasted Houjicha tea leaves
Is Houjicha different from a "Kyobancha"? They are both roasted, aren't they?
The "Kyobancha" is also roasted, but is very different from how a Houjicha is made.
The Kyobancha uses leaves and branches that are trimmed from the tea leaves around Autumn in preparation for the next year's harvest. They are taken and will be thrown into a huge metal pan under strong fire to roast. It will have a smokiness to the flavor, coming from the smoke that is emitted during this process.
On the other hand, Houjicha leaves are leaves that can be used for Sencha, Kukicha, or Bancha. They are prepared the same way, and at the end they go through an additional roasting process.
So the parts of the tea tree that's being used, the steps of the processing, and the method of roasting are all very different for the Kyobancha.
Yuki is the Editor-in-Chief AND Community Manager at Tealife. He bleeds Japanese Tea and loves being a part of the Japanese Tea journey of others. Writes, does events, conducts tasting sessions, drinks, drinks and drinks tea! Easily accessible - hit him up on whatsapp (+65) 85882980.