March 2024 – Hōjicha From Above The Clouds

We are starting a set of two Unjōchas (雲上茶) from the same producer, located in Kitashitara (北設楽郡) in Aichi (愛知県). The first one is a Hōjicha (ほうじ茶) or roasted green tea.

Unjō Hōjicha
Photo courtesy of the producer.

Tea above the clouds

"Unjōcha" (雲上茶), directly translating to "cloud-top tea" or "tea above the clouds," refers to tea grown at high elevations. The specific term "Unjōcha" isn't as commonly used or as widely recognized outside of certain regions in Japan, but the concept of high-elevation teas is well-understood and appreciated in the tea community. High-altitude tea farms are thought to produce teas of superior quality due to several environmental factors unique to these elevations.

At higher altitudes, the tea plants are exposed to cooler temperatures, which can slow their growth and lead to the development of more complex flavors in the leaves. The mist and cloud cover typical of these regions can also filter sunlight, reducing the rate of photosynthesis and encouraging the accumulation of natural sugars and aromatic compounds in the tea leaves. Furthermore, the drainage in mountainous areas tends to be better, reducing the risk of waterlogging and promoting healthy root development. These conditions combined can result in teas with a more refined flavor profile, often characterized by a delicate sweetness and a deeper, more nuanced aroma.

Above the clouds
Photo courtesy of the producer.

Although "Unjōcha" might specifically refer to a certain tea or tea-growing philosophy in particular areas, such as Kitashitara in Aichi Prefecture, the broader appreciation for high-elevation teas spans across various cultures and tea-growing regions. These teas are celebrated for their quality and the skill required to cultivate them in challenging terrains, offering tea enthusiasts around the world a taste that's as elevated as the clouds where they grow.

Photo courtesy of the producer.

Hōjicha: The Warm Comfort of Roasted Green Tea

Hōjicha (ほうじ茶) stands out in the world of tea for its comforting roasted flavor and soothing aroma. This unique type of green tea undergoes a special process where the leaves are roasted at high temperatures. This roasting not only changes the color of the tea to a lovely golden brown but also gives it a distinctive taste and smell that's both smoky and slightly sweet. One of the best things about Hōjicha is its low caffeine content, making it a great choice for anyone looking to relax in the evening without worrying about staying awake all night.

The charm of Hōjicha also lies in how versatile it is. Whether you prefer it hot to warm you up on a chilly day or iced to refresh you in the summer, Hōjicha is up for the task. Its unique taste, different from the grassy flavor of other green teas, has won the hearts of many, securing its spot as a favorite for people of all ages.

Photo courtesy of the producer.

Brewing Unjō Hōjicha

The quantity of tea leaves should be adjusted based on the preferred taste; approximately 5 grams of Unjō Hōjicha is ideal for 200 ml (7 oz) of spring water. The steeping time should last about two minutes in water heated to 90ºC (190ºF). The second and third steepings should be shorter than the first.