December 2017 – Hōjicha from Shiga/Tōkyō
This month we selected a Hōjicha (ほうじ茶) roasted in Tōkyō (東京), using green tea from the prefecture of Shiga (滋賀).
This Hōjicha (ほうじ茶), literally "roasted tea", is first of all produced as an unroasted green tea in the prefecture of Shiga (滋賀), and then remade at Morinoen (森乃園) in Tōkyō, a shop specialized in Hōjicha since 1914.
The green tea from Shiga, carefully selected by this shop, is brought to Tōkyō and roasted at high temperature. The tea prepared like this has a pleasant roasted scent and a fresh taste, without bitterness. Since its taste is not too strong despite being roasted, it is good to drink during a meal. Many authentic Japanese restaurants serve this Hōjicha, since it doesn’t alter the taste of their delicate and sophisticated dishes.
It also goes well with any kind of dessert. This month I've chosen a Japanese unbaked cake called Ochiba (落ち葉) or "fallen leaf", after last month cake Momijigari (紅葉狩り) or "leaf peeping", because there’s no more leaves left on the trees which let them fall to keep their reserves and survive through winter. This cake explains it.
In Japan, there’s an interesting movement for Hōjicha: sales have been increasing 16 folds over the last 11 years. Starbucks Japan has been offering Hōjicha Latte. Subsequently Häagen-Dazs started to sell a Hōjicha Latte ice cream. Both of these had unexpected success. We suppose that Hōjicha is very adaptable according to the circumstances.
Here is the recipe of Hōjicha Latte, Starbucks’s style: for one or two persons, prepare 4 or 5g of Hōjicha in a sachet (it is advisable to crush the Hōjicha). Put it in 150ml (5oz) of hot water and prepare it strong. Remove the sachet and pour 200ml (7oz) of hot milk and 2 pieces (6 to 8g) of sugar. You can also drink Hōjicha Latte with honey or cinnamon to taste. Enjoy Hōjicha Latte!
In december, even the masters run…
Japanese people sometimes call the month of December Shiwasu (師走), which means "the master who runs", because Japanese members of the high society should always remain calm and composed under any circumstances. However the month of December is exceptional. Everyone, including them, has many things to do from December 13th until the end of the year. It is called Shōgatsu Kotohajime (正月事始め) or "beginning of New Year preparations".
We clean up the house, send the gifts of winter (Oseibos, お歳暮) to professional and private relations, prepare New Year’s greeting cards, etc. Of course, we should not forget to have parties called Bōnenkai (忘年会) or "Party for forgetting this year" with colleagues and friends. Oops, we are so busy! But we should not forget a moment to relax, drinking tea. We say Ippuku (一服) in Japanese, a break!
The amount of tea leaves should be adapted according to the desired taste: it should be around 3 tablespoons (5 grams) of Hōjicha for 200ml (7oz) of spring water. The infusion should last about 2 minutes in boiling water. We recommend to use a lot of tea leaves. During the cold winter, you can add a little bit of grated ginger according to your taste to warm yourself up from the inside.
If you have questions about Japanese teas, please do not hesitate to contact us!