May 2015 - Hojicha from Uji
This month we selected a Hojicha (ほうじ茶) from Uji (宇治) in the prefecture of Kyoto (京都).
Hojicha (ほうじ茶) is a Japanese green tea roasted over charcoal. The roasting of green tea leaves and twigs is done at very high temperature (200ºC or 400ºF) over charcoal, similarly to how coffee beans are roasted. This process was first used on green tea in the 1920s in Uji.
Green tea roasting is often practiced on a low grade tea called Bancha (番茶): this tea is made from the last harvest of the year, usually done in October. However, it can also be practiced on higher quality Sencha or Kikucha.
The roasted flavors are extracted and dominate this tea: the roasting replaces the vegetative tones of other varieties of Japanese green tea with a toasty, slightly caramel-like flavor.
Hojicha is very popular in Japan, where it is often served with sushi. It is also often drunk at night before sleeping, as the roasting process lowers the amount of caffeine in the tea.
Uji is a large city just South of the city of Kyoto. It is the second oldest place where tea is grown in Japan, and by far the most famous and popular. Green teas from Uji, oftern called Uji-cha, became popular among the Japanese nobility during the Kamakura area (1185-1333) eight centuries ago. To this day these teas are considered the most refined of all Japan.
The process of roasting green tea to produce Hojicha has been invented in Uji. The process of growing teas in the shade (to produce Gyokuro or Kabusecha) was also invented in Uji.
The amount of leaf should be adapted according to the desired taste: it should be around 2 teaspoons (2.5 to 3 grams) for 125ml (4.2oz) of spring water.
The first infusion should last thirty seconds in water at 90ºC (195ºF). Second infusion should be done at 95ºC (205ºF) for one minute. Third infusion should be done at close to boiling temperature, and last one minute and a half.