It is sometimes misunderstood that hojicha is the same as bancha. In the broad meaning, hojicha is the roasted version of bancha and bancha is the Japanese tea of which leaves are harvested after summer. Therefore they are different types of Japanese tea, but the confusion may come from the fact that the bancha produced in Kyoto region is technically a Hojicha as it is roasted but it is called “Kyo-Bancha”. This is an exception. Sometimes, hojicha is made by roasting Sencha (high grade Japanese tea) as well, but most of Hojicha is made of bancha or Yanagicha (young leaves harvested in spring or summer, but leaves are bigger than that for sencha).
Bancha’s leaves are harder than the leaves of higher grade green teas such as Sencha. For this reason, bancha is considered as a lower grade green. This means that hojicha is also considered as a lower grade Japanese tea, but just going through one extra process that is “roasting”, hojicha presents unique features which are totally different to bancha.
First of all hojicha’s color is reddish brown while bancha’s color is green. Secondly hojicha has a distinctive roasted aroma which is completely different to that of bancha. And more importantly, the natural elements of bancha or sencha are reduced in hojicha. These elements are amino acid, catechin, caffeine and vitamin C. However because of the loss, hojicha tastes amazingly refreshing and this makes hojicha popular.