Hojicha is a roasted green tea. Some types of hojicha are made by roasting the leaves, while others are roasted using only the stems. In terms of the harvest timing, some hojicha is made from first flush green tea and others use an autumn harvest. These various factors make a difference in the flavor profiles of hojicha such as toasty, woody, nutty, and smoky. Hojicha is produced all over Japan, and depending on the region and producer, you can enjoy many different flavors of hojicha.

History of Hojicha

The history of hojicha is somewhat uncertain, and no official records have been documented; but I would like to introduce one promising story:

In the 1920’s, Japan was hit by the great depression known as the Showa Depression. At that time, tea was considered a luxury drink and expensive among general foods. Also, tea preservation technology was not yet developed, so tea was simply put in tea boxes and left in warehouses. Without refrigeration, vacuum, or nitrogen-filling technology to prevent oxidation, the tea changed color and smell after a long period of time and had to be disposed of.

As a result of trial and error to avoid the crisis of wasted tea, unsold tea was accidentally roasted – which was the beginning of hojicha.

Since then, hojicha has become familiar to the Japanese people. With less caffeine than sencha or gyokuro, it was often drunk after dinner or as a bedtime tea. It was mainly a home-brewed tea.

However, with the increasing popularity of hojicha, especially among women, the situation surrounding hojicha is changing.  Hojicha is now used in cafes for drinks or desserts such as hojicha lattes, hojicha parfaits, ice cream, and many other dessert items. In addition, convenience stores are now selling a variety of sweets made with hojicha.

What’s Behind the Rise in the Popularity of Hojicha?

Recently, while the popularity of coffee and various other beverages has been increasing in Japan, there has been a shift away from traditional Japanese green tea. Currently, the main consumers of green tea are relatively older people, and young people tend to prefer coffee. However, even among young people, hojicha has been accepted. The roasted aroma, similar to coffee, may be to their taste.

Also, because hojicha contains less caffeine, some people who drink mainly coffee during the day prefer to drink hojicha at night.

Clear glass of hojicha next to a tea canister and pile of tea

Hojicha Health Benefits

The greatest health benefit of hojicha is its ability to make you relax. It is mainly thanks to its aroma. The relaxing effect of hojicha’s aroma is scientifically proven to be caused by the natural element called pyrazine. Pyrazine in hojicha is produced when amino acids and saccharide are heated during the roasting process. Pyrazine is also found in coffee and slightly-burned grilled beef. That is why you feel good when you smell coffee and grilling beef: They make you relax. However, coffee contains a high amount of caffeine and caffeine stimulates your nerves. So, if you drink too much, you will stay awake rather than being relaxed. This is where hojicha steps in as a relaxing drink because it does not contain much caffeine.

Pyrazine is also effective to stabilize your nerves, enhance your blood circulation, and improve your skin condition. The amount of pyrazine in hojicha increases in the roasting process, and the increased pyrazine works well to expand the blood vessels. Thus, nerves become stable, blood circulation is enhanced, and skin condition improves.

Brewing Hojicha at Home

The Japanese teas sencha and gyokuro are brewed at a lower temperature of 50℃(122°F) to 80℃(176°F), while hojicha can be brewed using boiling water. This is because gyokuro and sencha are brewed at low temperatures to bring out their umami flavor, while hojicha is a tea that is brewed at high temperatures to enjoy its roasted aroma. Theanine—the source of umami and abundant in sencha and gyokuro teas—is lost during the roasting process, so hojicha contains very little of the umami element.

Hojicha Brewing Guide

  • Hojicha tea: 3-4g (0.1 – 0.14oz)  or 1 tbsp
  • Water: 1 cup (7 fl. oz)
  • Water Temperature: 190°F ~ Boiling Water
  • Steep Time: 30 sec
Screen capture from how to video

You can also watch our video “How to Brew Hojicha

Popular Hojicha Desserts

Hojicha can also be enjoyed at many cafes, restaurants, and confectioneries as part of the dessert menu.

On the menu at many cafes, let’s start with the most popular: Hojicha latte.

Hojicha latte with heart shaped foam

Hojicha Latte

Hojicha parfaits, puddings, and cakes are also popular on dessert menus.

Hojicha ice cream parfait in a glass next to small glasses

Hojicha Parfait

Hojicha mont blanc cake on a plate with a fork

Hojicha Mont Blanc Cake

Bowl of hojicha pudding with whipped cream

Hojicha Pudding

Try Hojicha

With the current situation of Covid, it is still difficult to travel abroad; but if you ever have the chance to come to Japan in the future, you should try some hojicha desserts and drinks!

Also, if you make your own desserts at home or run a café or restaurant, it may not be so difficult to make desserts and sweets like those introduced here. For drinks, you can boil hojicha leaf teas, but using hojicha powder is much easier and more convenient. Hojicha powder is very popular and available at tea shops in many countries.

For desserts and sweets, it is recommended to mix hojicha powder with other ingredients. It can be used for cookies, cakes, and many other sweets similarly to matcha!

Split image - left is pile of hojicha leaves on wood, right is hojicha simmering in milk

Making a Hojicha Latte using hojicha loose leaf teas

Split image - left is hojicha powder on a plate, right is hojicha syrup being poured over pancakes

Hojicha syrup made using hojicha powder

We will also be introducing recipes using hojicha. Please look forward to it!

Images provided and copyright held by author