Monthly Archives: January 2016

What is Hōjicha and How Does it Relate to Roasted bancha?

Hōjicha is a Japanese tea variation that is closely synonym to what roasted bancha is. Most commonly lower grade leaf is used, and in order to enhance its flavour, it is processed by roasting, resulting in a sweet and toasty aroma.
Contemporarily higher grade tea leaf or twigs are also used for the production of hōjicha. Hōjicha is unfortunately not considered as a high grade tea, but it may be savoured as an enjoyable everyday house tea. Its fragrant aroma and ultimately refreshing character make it a tea that is especially favoured as a relaxing cup after lunch or diner.

 

A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND.

Hōjicha was discovered in the Yamashiro region around Kyoto by a tea merchant during the early 1920’s to late 1930’s. During this period, tea sales in Japan almost stagnated. It was a period of despair for tea merchants as their tea stock remained in store, and in search for alternative preservation and application methods for that tea, it is believed that the method of roasting was one result of this endeavour.

Today, hōjicha is generally produced from bancha leaf or twigs and other remains which are filtered out during the selection for higher grade tea such as sencha and gyokuro. Several variations of hōjicha can be found, and sometimes they are even graded according to the class of leaf used for its production.

 

DRINKING HŌJICHA.

Hōjicha is a tea that is fairly easy to brew. Due to the roasting, most of the harsher and more bitter flavour of older bancha has been released and the leaf becomes imbued with a more rounded toasty flavour with a refreshing sweetness in its aftertaste. In effect, hōjicha lends itself to brewing with boiled water, where other tea variations as sencha or gyokuro would require slightly cooled water for a better result.

It is preferred to utilise a larger tea pot such as a Dobin and larger sized tea cups (about 120㏄ to 180㏄). Hōjicha is a perfect tea to quench your thirst, it is favoured after sport, during work or after a meal. These are the most popular occasions to relax with a fragrant cup of Hōjicha.

“Bancha” — A Generic Term For A Wide Variety Of Tea.

Bancha in general is considered as the regular house tea, available in a standard Japanese household. This tea lends itself to consumption at any given time of day and may be prepared in larger volumes at once, for batch that lasts the whole day. However, when mentioning bancha to a Japanese person, depending on the region they grew up, the word “bancha” may have a different connotation.

What is called bancha In the Shizuoka and Tokyo region, is called Kawayanagi (川柳) or Aoyanagi (青柳) in Osaka and Kyoto. And the word bancha in this region refers to Kyo-bancha, which is a tea roasted on a coal fire, with a rather smokey aroma. Then again, In northern Japan in Hokkaido for example, bancha is used to refer to what in other regions is called Hōjicha, the mainstream roasted Japanese tea. This even extends to the scale that most rural areas in Japan have their own local bancha style and thus use the word for only that particular tea.

Originally, the word bancha in Japanese is said to derive from the word bangai-cha (番外茶). The character ban (番) refers to the optimal harvesting time of Japanese green tea, of which there usually are two to three and sometimes four in a year. The first harvest is conducted in Spring, which is also when that year’s shincha or first flush new tea is harvested. The second in summer and possibly a third in Autumn. The character gai (外) means outside, and in collocation, the word bangai-cha means “tea which is harvested outside of the main harvesting seasons”.

Regardless if the tea is roasted, fermented, withered, consumed as cheap sencha, or boiled together with other ingredients; bancha is a tea that is produced from leaf that isn’t suitable for the production of what is considered the higher grade, quality tea that Japan so wishes to offer. Generally speaking, this leaf can be obtained during three stages in between the harvests.

  1. Late growers.
    These are the new buds and leaves that have sprouted after the first harvest. These leaves have sprouted too late and can’t be used as leaf from the first flush harvest. In certain cases, bancha is written as (晩茶) in Japanese, in which case it’s meaning refers to the lateness of the leaf harvested. Leaves that are harvested later, are generally coarser and larger than the softer and smaller ones suitable for high class production.
  2. Autumn pruning.
    This is the leaf that, when a third autumn harvest isn’t obtained, is left to grow. Before winter, in preparation for next year’s harvest, the trees are pruned and the leaf then gathered is used for the production of bancha, also called Shūtō Bancha (秋冬番茶) or “Autumn and Winter Bancha”. Other naming variations, depending on when the pruning is conducted, also exist.
  3. Outcasts.
    This is the leaf that during the manufacturing and selection process of sencha or gyokuro was filtered out due to their large size or coarseness. This leaf is also referred to as atama (頭) or “heads” in Japanese.

In the end, we can say that the leaf used for bancha is generally selected by a set of standards which determine whether or not the leaf is suitable for the production of sencha, kabusecha and gyokuro; the main stream Japanese green tea variations.

Do keep in mind however, that wherever you go in Japan, the word bancha may have different connotations, and you may not always get what you were expecting to receive.

5 Reasons Why Bancha Is The Best Choice For Your Daily Cup.

Bancha is generally perceived as a low grade and low cost tea, and is thus considered of lesser quality and flavor. Due to this conception, bancha has lost a lot of it’s charm as a potential high-standard tea. I believe that bancha, when considered as a tea family in itself, has just as much potential, flavor and variation as any class of sencha, gyokuro or any other tea. I believe that bancha makes the perfect tea for your everyday enjoyment. Here’s why.

 

WHAT IS BANCHA.

Bancha employs that more fully-grown tea-leaf which is too mature, and has therefore become too bitter, for use in producing high-quality sencha, and is harvested later; such leaf is first processed just as for sencha – by means of a combination of steaming, rolling and drying – but is then stored until it is required, whereupon, in the case of The Tea Crane’s Organic Roasted Bancha, it is roasted immediately before packaging and shipping.

 

5 REASONS.

#1 BANCHA CAN BE MADE IN LARGE VOLUMES AT ONCE.

Unlike with other tea, bancha is better suited for brewing one or two litres at once. As the leaf is larger and coarser than any standard type of tea, it releases most of it’s flavour instantly during the first steeping. Therefore, it also requires to be infused in a larger amount of water and is thus most commonly applied as the everyday, all-day tea in regular households.

#2 BANCHA IS ECONOMICAL.

Bancha can be acquired in larger volumes at lower cost, compared to a standard sencha or other type of tea. Other tea variations are more often drunk to enjoy its flavour in lesser amounts, and thus apply leaf that has been produced with greater care. Bancha instead uses more fully grown leaf, that in a sense is less diversified in flavour. Therefore, it can be harvested in larger volume and is in result, available at a more economical value.

#3 BANCHA IS THE PERFECT QUENCHER FOR YOUR THIRST.

As addressed in point #1, bancha lends itself better to brewing a large volume at once, and as indicated in point #2, it can be acquired at lower cost in comparison to other types of tea. This makes that bancha is better suited for consumption in larger volumes when thirsty, and in this sense, is thus a great drink to quench your thirst after for example an intense sports session or during work. It also lends itself better to be carried in a large thermos flask for consumption anywhere a tea pot and hot water are not readily available.

#4 ROASTING LOWERS THE CAFFEINE AMOUNT IN BANCHA.

By exposing the tea leaf to a source of heat, a chemical reaction within the leaf occurs and has to effect that a great amount of caffeine is decomposed or released. The small amount of caffeine that remains has close to no effect on the human body and this makes that the tea is well suited for pregnant women, young children or elderly, and that, in addition, the tea may serve as a soothing nightcap before going to bed without distorting your sleep.

#5 BANCHA IS EASY TO BREW.

Brewing bancha is as easy as
1. boiling water;
2. dropping in the necessary amount of tea leaf;
3. filtering out the leaf to drink.

Some bancha may require you to boil the leaf as it would otherwise not release sufficient flavour. With The Tea Crane Organic Roasted Bancha, it is sufficient to bring your water up to boiling point and let it boil for several minutes, insert the necessary amount of tea leaf and let it steep for one to two minutes before consuming. All you need is a large kettle and a strainer, items which are usually readily available at a standard western household.