In the world of cozy beverages, there is always something new to try. London fogs are well-loved for their aromatic earl grey tea base, while chagaccinos captured our interest for their purported health benefits. We’ve obsessed over boba pearls, enthusiastically sipped thick champurrado, and have devoted ourselves to the cult of matcha. Perhaps, however, a new green tea drink should take the crown.
Although hojicha, or roasted green tea, has been enjoyed in Japan for over a hundred years, it has recently gained popularity stateside for its distinctive nuttiness and subtly smoky flavor. Whereas matcha is grassy and pleasantly pungent, hojicha is subdued and inviting.
“The way hojicha is processed is very different from traditional tea,” explains Navdeep Kaur, the director of education for tea brand Dona. Instead of using just tea leaves, as is traditional, hojicha is constructed of the stems and twigs from the upper part of the tea plant, which are then steamed and roasted over charcoal, infusing the tea bark with smokiness. “Hojicha is a very different-looking tea and the taste notes are woody and smoky, with a caramel and chocolate finish,” Kaur adds.
Something that also sets hojicha apart from its other green tea counterparts is the caffeine content. Matcha is known for its high caffeine content, but hojicha contains far less. “When it’s roasted, the caffeine mellows out, which is not so common for green teas,” Kaur says. Because of this, hojicha can be the perfect option for someone reducing their caffeine intake or for an evening sip.
Because of hojicha’s sweet and warming flavors it makes for the perfect tea to use in baking and desserts. At U Dessert Story in San Francisco, hojicha and bananas are combined for a unique take on the British banoffee pie. At Kitsby in Brooklyn, a cafe and e-commerce baking kit brand, hojicha is featured in lattes and is the star of several desserts, including a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.