|Nakayama Village near Fujieda City, in Shizuoka Japan
|Camellia sinensis sinensis, Yabukita varietal
Houjicha (also written hojicha) is a low caffeine, roasted Japanese green tea made from the Kinezuka's premium leaves. It achieves a level of quality uncommon for this style. It has excellent endurance with sweet, mellow top notes and savoury undertones reminiscent of salted caramel, fresh roasted nuts and warm toast.
|80 degrees Celsius
|1 x tablespoon (3 grams)
150 ml water (small tea cup)
Infuse for 2 minutes
Houjicha is a roasted green tea, unique because most other Japanese teas are steamed. The Kinezuka’s houjicha is grown on the family’s all-natural, organic farm in a small village called Nakayama. The garden is in the mountains behind the city of Fujieda. Organic farming is rare in Japan and the Kinezuka’s are held in high esteem for their commitment to pesticide free agriculture.
For years the Kinezuka’s have produced various styles of tea, though during the winter months when the tea plants are dormant, the family shifts its focus to their tangerine trees which are harvested during the colder months.
The Kinezuka family advocate harmony between people, agriculture and nature. This is reflected throughout their garden and approach to tea. Their passion has resulted in a small organic tea movement in the Fujieda area with more than 20 other gardens and farms adopting the Kinezuka’s agriculture principles and advanced cultivation techniques with the goal of creating a much larger macro environment that makes the need for pesticides obsolete.
Most Japanese houjicha is made with poorer quality, unsorted leaf material from the tail end of the harvesting season. The Kinezukas use premium leaf material instead and, thanks to their excellence in organic agriculture, the results are marked. This houjicha is a sweeter tea with much more endurance in the steepings thanks to the superior grade leaf.
Dry houjicha leaves are brown in colour, despite it being a green tea. This is because of the roasting process. Once infused, the liquor has a very distinct reddish-brown appearance, again, very different from other Japanese greens.
The disparities continue on the palate. Houjicha has aromatic toasted nut flavours with a hint of caramel sweetness and barely any tannic bitterness. This is in stark contrast to the vegetal, mineral and seaweed flavours that characterise the majority of Japanese teas.
Houjicha is lower in caffeine than most teas, both as a result of the high heat roasting and the fact that the leaves used are generally large and from lower down the tea bush – the top tips and young shoots of a plant tend to have the highest concentration of caffeine. Houjicha is often used to aid digestion and quench thirst because of its low tannin levels and limited astringency. It is a great base for a cold brew tea. It also pairs well with food, beautifully complementing rich flavours.
You can learn more about the Kinezuka's and houjicha here.
Plucking: The Kinezuka’s houjicha is made using uncommonly premium leaf for this style of tea. Leaves are harvested in spring as opposed to autumn when most other houjicha leaves are picked. The spring harvest is considered the finest of the year in terms of quality, freshness and flavour.
Steaming: Japanese teas are unique from all other green teas because they are steamed immediately after harvest. Steaming stops the leaves from oxidising and developing the characters of black or oolong style tea. The length of the steaming process varies and this largely determines the flavour characteristics and colour of the tea.
Rolling: Rolling gives the leaf its characteristic needle shape. There are several stages of rolling which the tea master manages closely.
Drying: The leaves are dried to remove remaining traces of moisture and to lock in the flavour. They are now ready for sorting and blending.
Roasting: The Kinezuka’s use a specialised roaster who is based in Fujieda to put the final touches to this tea. It is this special roasting process that makes houjicha unique. The processed leaves are roasted over charcoal and fired at a very high heat turning the leaf from green to brown. The high heat results in less caffeine and tannin in the leaf which is why this tea is often recommended for children, or those with sensitivities to caffeine. It takes great skill from the roaster to get the balance exactly right. Too much roasting leaves the leaves smelling and tasting burnt, too little roasting, and the depth of flavour will be missing.