August 2018 – Hōjicha from Aichi
This month we selected a Hōjicha (ほうじ茶) from Shinshiro (新城), in the prefecture of Aichi (愛知).
The prefecture of Aichi is the belly button of the Japanese archipelago. This prefecture is not far from the regions where we produce a lot of green tea, such as Shizuoka (No.1), Mie (No.3) and Kyōto (No.5). Thus, it is not surprising that the people of Aichi produce tea. In fact, Aichi is ranked at the 10th position for tea production, and at the 2nd position for the production of the base material of Matcha (抹茶)m called Tencha (甜茶). We make Matcha by grinding this Tencha.
The tealeaves used to make the tea we selected are from a 100% organic tea plantation of this region, located at an altitude of 500 meters (1500 feet) in a mountainous area, under a favorable environment having a big difference of temperature between day and night, and a morning fog. After the usual processing of green tea, the tealeaves are roasted at high temperature to become Hōjicha.
Since summers in Japan are very hot and humid, we prefer to drink cold Mugicha or Hōjicha rather than green tea. Hōjicha can be served as a hot tea, a cold tea, or recently as the very trendy Hōjicha Latte. Hōjicha has very little caffeine, and the taste is not so complex that we drink Hōjicha without moderation.
I found a sweet, called "浜土産 (Hamazuto)", which means litteraly "souvenir of the beach". Japanese sweets are first of all enjoyed by sight, by imagining the scene. Inside the jelly lies a red bean seasoned in miso (fermented soybean paste), with a salty taste, which wipes the monotony of jelly. Hōjicha and this Hamazuto are agreeably melting in the mouth.
Welcome back to this world!
Of course, Japanese people also enjoy a summer break in the middle of August for one week, from August 13th until 16th. We call these holidays “Obon (お盆)”. It is a special holiday to host our ancestors who come back from the world of the dead to see us. Thanks to them, we exist and live here now. So, we have to receive them nicely with a warm hospitality!
We prepare sweets, fruits, flowers and the things that they loved before passing away. We often decorate a cucumber and an eggplant with chopsticks. You are probably thinking "But why?". We consider them as a horse and a cow respectively. That means vehicles for the deads. They use the horse to come to this world quickly, and the cow to return to their world slowly. Thus, they can stay here as long as possible.
The amount of tealeaves should be adapted according to the desired taste: it should be around two tablespoons (5 to 6 grams) of Hōjicha for 200ml (7oz) of spring water. The infusion should last 30 to 40 seconds in water at 90-95ºC (195-205ºF).
We recommend to make cold Hōjicha in summer. Put 6 grams of Hōjicha in 100ml (3.5oz) of boiling water. Wait for 60 seconds after stirring the leaves lightly. Then pour one liter of spring water and leave it in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours according to your taste. You can drink it after removing the leaves with a strainer.
Or to make it quickly, you can put a sachet of 8 to 9 grams of Hōjicha and 1 liter of spring water together in a bottle and leave it for 3 hours in the refrigerator. If you have questions about Japanese teas, please do not hesitate to contact us!