As tea drinking becomes more prevalent, medical research studies are being done to better understand the health properties of the green tea plant. It is essential to keep in mind that all tea will have health benefits; the chemical composition of each particular variety will determine the extent and strength of the wellness boost it can provide. Even less research has been done on the Japanese roasted green tea, Hojicha. But, there are a few studies that can give us an idea of what makes it different from steam and fan-dried Japanese green tea.
What is Hojicha?
Hojicha (AKA Houjicha – ほうじ茶), or roasted green tea, is made from the pan-roasted leaves and stems of tea. It was first developed in Kyoto, Japan, during the 1920s and has become popular around the world. Sencha, Bancha, or Kukicha loose leaves and stems roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal. But it is now processed in factories where fresh leaves are tumbled in large drums that rotate and roast at high temperatures.
Initially, the process of roasting green tea leaves was intended to preserve the leaves for extended storage. But the unique flavor is so appealing that a demand developed and has grown over time. The process gives Hojicha a smoky aroma and nutty flavor. Some also claim that it is one way of making low-grade tea more desirable. Roasting changes the color, aroma, and taste and results in different nutrient levels before and after the process.
“Many health claims have been made around this roasted green tea and made people wonder if hojicha is as beneficial for our health as regular green tea. The roasting process can strip tea of its natural health-giving properties while enhancing others.”
Some of the key differences between nutrients in regular green tea varieties and roasted Hojicha.
Caffeine Level In Roasted Green Tea Vs. Regular Green Tea
One of the health claims surrounding Hojicha is that due to the roasting process. Hojicha contains lower levels of caffeine than other types of green tea. Although caffeine in itself isn’t necessarily detrimental to health and has been shown to have its own potential benefits in moderate amounts, the lower caffeine levels in roasted green tea would appeal to some people who may want to enjoy the health-giving properties of green tea but have restrictions on the amount of caffeine they can consume, such as children and the elderly.
Studies done in Japan on the levels of caffeine across different tea varieties show lower levels of caffeine in roasted tea versus some other teas, but not all. Gyokuro, a premium shade-grown green tea variety, had an average caffeine content of 3.25%, and sencha, made from the first flush of tea plants, had about 2.57% caffeine. Bancha, the second flush of tea and the varietal of the camellia sinensis plant from which Hojicha is made, had 1.55% caffeine on average. What about Hojicha? The samples in this study averaged at 1.76% caffeine, higher than its often parent tea, bancha.
How can this be? Doesn’t roasting break down caffeine? Well, not really. Coffee has much more caffeine than any green tea variety and yet its beans are always roasted before use. It’s more likely that the low caffeine content in roasted green tea is due to it being made from tea leaves and stems that are already lower in caffeine to begin with and not the roasting process.
Antioxidants In Hojicha Vs Regular Green Tea
Green tea is well known for having very high levels of antioxidants, especially catechins. These compounds have been studied in-depth and have been shown to be able to protect cells against cancer-causing radicals and help fighting heart disease, liver disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Yet do these same protective effects extend to roasted green tea as well? The research doesn’t seem to think so. In fact, a recent study on the antioxidant content of tea based on its processing and brewing method showed that high-temperature roasting significantly reduces the final antioxidant concentration in those brews. They concluded that the roasting process actually destroys many of the catechins present in the fresh leaf.
“So if you’re looking for an antioxidant boost, it’s best to stick to regular green teas.”
Bonus: Roasted Green Tea Reduce Stroke Risk
This may come as a surprise to some, but there is a well-documented relationship between green tea consumption and stroke risk. It’s an inverse relationship, of course, meaning that drinking green tea significantly reduces the risk of a tea drinker having a stroke. Green tea also reduces the risk of death even if a person does have a stroke and the likelihood that they’ll have a second stroke. Is this incredible protective quality also present in roasted green teas? Let’s take a look at what scientists have to say about that.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the answer is no. This study couldn’t find any relationship at all, good or bad, between drinking roasted tea and stroke. While it’s definitely comforting to know that hojicha won’t harm you, it’s also important to keep in mind that you won’t be getting the same protective effect that you would from unroasted green tea.
So, Should I Drink Hojicha?
While roasted green tea may not share all the same health-giving properties that other types of tea possess, let’s remember tea research is still young, and as more studies come out, who knows what incredible things will be discovered about Hojicha? Regardless of its health benefits, Hojicha should still be valued for its unique taste and rich history alongside the other varieties of Camellia sinensis. This wonderfully rich flavor is delicious when used in cooking and creating many different specialty beverages, like Hojicha Lattes.