Hōjicha is a Japanese tea variation that is closely synonym to what roasted bancha is. Most commonly lower grade leaf is used, and in order to enhance its flavour, it is processed by roasting, resulting in a sweet and toasty aroma.
Contemporarily higher grade tea leaf or twigs are also used for the production of hōjicha. Hōjicha is unfortunately not considered as a high grade tea, but it may be savoured as an enjoyable everyday house tea. Its fragrant aroma and ultimately refreshing character make it a tea that is especially favoured as a relaxing cup after lunch or diner.
A little bit of background.
Hōjicha was discovered in the Yamashiro region around Kyoto by a tea merchant during the early 1920's to late 1930's. During this period, tea sales in Japan almost stagnated. It was a period of despair for tea merchants as their tea stock remained in store, and in search for alternative preservation and application methods for that tea, it is believed that the method of roasting was one result of this endeavour.
Today, hōjicha is generally produced from bancha leaf or twigs and other remains which are filtered out during the selection for higher grade tea such as sencha and gyokuro. Several variations of hōjicha can be found, and sometimes they are even graded according to the class of leaf used for its production.
Hōjicha is a tea that is fairly easy to brew. Due to the roasting, most of the harsher and more bitter flavour of older bancha has been released and the leaf becomes imbued with a more rounded toasty flavour with a refreshing sweetness in its aftertaste. In effect, hōjicha lends itself to brewing with boiled water, where other tea variations as sencha or gyokuro would require slightly cooled water for a better result.
It is preferred to utilise a larger tea pot such as a Dobin and larger sized tea cups (about 120㏄ to 180㏄). Hōjicha is a perfect tea to quench your thirst, it is favoured after sport, during work or after a meal. These are the most popular occasions to relax with a fragrant cup of Hōjicha.
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