I always get excited when I hear about a new tea shop opening. Ippodo in New York City looks and sounds like something right out of Japan. Upon further investigation, I’ve learned that this is the first Ippodo to open outside of Japan – the two other locations are Kyoto and Tokyo. Apparently New Yorkers have been their largest global customers so it made sense to launch there. Housed inside a Michelin-starred vegetarian Japanese restaurant, it is quite possible to miss the extent of this very special tea offering.
I was delighted to receive a sample of their Gokujo Hojicha which is a roasted green tea. The package explains that this type of tea is made by roasting the big leaves that are a by-product of making sencha tea. Upon opening the packet, I was inundated with a delicious, sweet roasted scent. As I always do with a new tea, I read the instructions and found them quite curious: recommending 4 tablespoons of tea per 8 ounce pot of boiling water, with a steeping time of 30 seconds. Not at all what I would have expected. As a green tea lover, this just didn’t seem right somehow. I diligently brewed up the tea following instructions. The liquor was quite dark, although the smell was divine. Once I tasted it, I found it to be too strong. I brought the cup to my husband and asked him to take a sip and let me know his thoughts, “Yum . . . a delicious roasted black tea, almost with a touch of maple syrup for sweetness.” He was shocked to hear that it was in fact a green tea.
I decided to try another pot, this time using the amount that I would normally use in a small pot and reducing the temperature to 185 with a short steep time of 30 seconds. Voila! Much better. I’m not a black tea lover, preferring greens and white; this tea was light enough and its sweet roasted flavor was delicious. This experience reminds me that taste is highly subjective. I’ll be sure to try it on a few friends who are dedicated black tea lovers and see what they have to say. My guess is that it will be the first green tea that they fall in love with.
MAIN: Image of brewed Hojicha courtesy of the contributor.