Hojicha has a reddish brown color and a distinctive aroma which are different to other Japanese tea cultivars. Because of these factors, hojicha is sometimes not considered as a Japanese green tea. However, hojicha is a roasted version of Japanese green teas such as sencha (high grade Japanese tea), kabusecha (shaded Japanese tea) and so on. Therefore hojicha still belongs to the Japanese green tea group. The roasting method that is used now broadly in Japan was developed in Kyoto in 1920’s.
As hojicha is a roasted version of the Japanese green tea, hojicha does not contain as much caffeine and catechin as other Japanese green teas. Caffeine and catechin are major natural elements of other types of Japanese green tea and these elements give us health benefits. This means that it is not expected to receive the same benefits from hojicha.
Another low-key aspect of hojicha is that hojicha is a roasted Japanese green tea, so people generally think that the hojicha is a low grade tea and make this tea just for them to drink. However, in some regions of Japan such as Kyoto, drinking hojicha is their long appreciated custom. In Kyoto, it is quite common to serve hojicha tea to guests or on special occasions. This is partially because people like the special aroma coming from roasting, and the aroma makes you feel relaxed.
In fact, the relaxing effect of hojicha’s aroma can be scientifically explained. The natural element of the relaxing aroma is called pyrazine. Pyrazine in hojicha is produced when amino acid and sugar are heated during the roasting process. Pyrazine works well to improve the blood circulation and relaxes the person’s mood.
You can find pyrazine also in coffee, roasted nuts, cocoa and beef. In the case of beef, the aroma made by pyrazine is smelled when the beef is lightly burned. Pyrazine is added to candies and cakes as well to create the special roasted or burning aroma.
Another factor that makes hojicha popular is its taste. While most of the Japanese green teas have a mild bitterness due to the catechin contained, hojicha has less catechin and this makes its taste much milder and refreshing. Because of these features, hojicha does not stimulate the stomach so much and is suitable to drink during meals. Some people like drinking hojicha before going to bed because the tea does not contain much caffeine.