Lately it seems like no one can get enough of matcha green tea. But honestly? I'm getting a little bored of the stuff, which is why I'm so intrigued by hojicha.
Hojicha is a green tea, but unlike matcha, which is a ceremonial-grade tea made with pure tea leaves that have had their veins and any stem pieces removed, hojicha is often made from bancha. Bancha is just the lowest grade of green tea, made from the last harvest of the growing season (though hojicha can occasionally be made from sencha or kukicha tea).
The reason hojicha is made from lower-quality tea leaves is how it's prepared; hojicha is made by roasting green tea over charcoal. The delicate flavors you find in the highest-quality tea leaves would be quickly overwhelmed by the toasty, caramelized notes that result from the high-temperature roasting.
Hojicha makes for an autumn-toned cup of tea, with the toasty, nutty flavors you'd associate with a nice crackling fire. It's super soothing, and because much of the caffeine in the tea breaks down during roasting, hojicha is a popular drink in the evening. Depending on your sensitivity, the next time you're craving coffee too late in the day for the caffeine, you could have hojicha instead. It has a similar roasted, nutty flavor, and you won't be left tossing and turning all night from a caffeine overload.
But you don't have to sip it warm. In the summer, try making a batch of iced hojicha, in the tradition of the chilled roasted barley tea popular in Korea.
Matcha has a lot going for it, I can't lie. But something tells me it's time for a change. And hojicha, combining the current foodie super trends of matcha with charcoal, could be just the ticket.
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