Hojicha is made by roasting green tea at high temperature, and there are actually various types depending on roasting temperature, harvesting timing of green teas to make hojicha and whether to use the leaves or the stems (or both).
1. Hojicha made from roasted leaves
Generally, when making hojicha, the leaves are used. The tea leaves used as the material are sencha or bancha.
First, the quality of hojicha varies greatly depending on the tea leaves used as the material. However, if you use good quality tea leaves of sencha or bancha, it will not always be a good hojicha. The tea leaves which have unique characteristics in scent sometimes generate nice aroma as hojicha. The world of hojicha is complicated.
Hojicha made by roasting sencha
Hojicha made by roasting bancha
Also, there are various methods for roasting. Hojicha can be made by adding heat directly to the leaves. Or there is also a method of roasting in a rotating pot or using microwave such as a microwave oven. The aroma changes depending on the combination of method and materials of teas used, and of course the quality also changes depending on the roasting temperature.
2. Kuki Hojicha
Kuki means stems. Kuki hojicha is made by roasting the stem of green tea instead of leaves. A famous kuki hojicha is "Kaga Boucha" produced in Kaga and Kanazawa region of Ishikawa Prefecture.
The stem portion of Japanese tea has various names such as bou (meaning stick), ore (meaning fold), karigane, or bone. Kuki hojicha using such stems has a different taste than hojicha made by roasting tea leaves. Boucha is characterized by a scent that goes deep into the nose.
Kaga Boucha - Stem Hojicha produced
Kuki hojicha has more variations than leaf hojicha. For leave hojicha, standard quality sencha or bancha which has a large production volume are often used. Instead, stems have wider source for hojicha than leaves because they can also be produced from gyokuro and tencha which is the raw material for matcha. In addition, there are various roasting methods and roasting temperatures as well as leaf hojicha.
3. Differences between Hojicha and other Japanese green teas
Hojicha, whether leaf hojicha or stem hojicha, it is a tea that enjoys the scent rather than the taste, since amino acids which are components of umami taste, are transformed into aromatic components by roasting.
In that respect, hojicha may be said that it is closer to black tea and oolong tea than other Japanese teas which we enjoy the balance of bitterness, astringency, umami and sweetness.
Therefore, other Japanese teas (excluding matcha) generally don’t go well with milk, sugar, herb or fruits, however hojicha has a strong match with such additional flavors.
In recent years, there are many flavor teas and cheese teas that hojicha is mainly used. It can also play a leading role in pairing with food, which may be similar to oolong tea after meals.
From the above, hojicha can be said to be the main position of Japanese tea as well as matcha and sencha.