Makijima Tea Co. Hojicha
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Please note - colour of package is a lucky dip!
Hōjicha is basically roasted green tea. The roasting process adds smooth nutty layers to the flavour, complemented by refreshing endnotes of Japanese green tea. Distinctly different from English black tea and Chinese teas like Oolong and Pu’er, the overall feel of hōjicha is strangely more like that of coffee. So if you are after a gift for someone who likes coffee but don’t like green tea so much, then get this one (although “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake”)
This hōjicha was grown and processed by Fumiaki Iwata and his team in Tsukigase, Nara, and made from tea leaves that were harvested in early summer (after spring harvest) and in autumn. Compared to other Makijima teas that are all made from spring harvest (the first young shoots after winter, ichibancha), its appearance is on the rough side (to say the least…). However, having bits and pieces of the tea plant results in its unique sweetness and elegant complexity.
Each pack contains 100 g (roughly one month supply per person).
Very easy to brew, see end for details and instrucitons also provded with each pack. Although traditionally enjoyed “black”, hōjicha actually goes well with milk or soymilk. Hōji au lait! It also makes amazing spicy hoji-chai (you can boil the leaves in the pot). Hōjicha is also excellent when served cold. Just pour it over lots of ice, perfect on hot Australian summer days.
We increasingly see hōjicha being used for cooking and dessert making (#hōjibrûlée anyone?) — a quick Google search takes you on a hōjicha culinary journey.
All tea leaves in this hojicha were grown according to the organic farming requirements set by Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS). For this batch, Makijima selected tea leaves that were grown by using natural farming principles (there is A LOT to this farming technique so probably best to rely on Google please; just don’t be fooled by this rather generic, underwhelming name!).
P.S. Technically speaking, this is hōji-bancha, occasionally dismissed as being inferior quality by tea elitists (oh how wrong they are!). This style of hōji-bancha is unique mostly to Kyoto and Nara. For us who grew up there, “tea” as we knew as kids was basically this. We hope you also enjoy this regional classic.
How to brew Makijima tea
Now, Step 1: You need hot water. But not too hot.
You know how to boil water. To lower the temperature, you can just sit and wait if you are zen.
Or, you can first pour the hot water into a tea pot (without tea leaves inside!) and then from the tea pot into tea cup(s) (discard the rest if you have too much water). Then, use the water in the tea cup(s) to prepare your tea. Each step should reduce the water temperature by 7° to 10°C (so your water should be about 80-85°C now; perfect for sencha and fukamushi sencha). By doing this, you also have the right amount of water you need and the cup(s) you serve the tea are now nice and warm. The water is still hot so please be careful. You can skip the first tea pot step or skip them altogether if you want a slightly warmer temperature (ideal for hōjicha). You need 80-100 cc of water per person, so think of a granny’s tea cup not your dad’s mug!
Step 2: Get your tea leaves in there!
To get the right balance of flavour, you need the right amount of tea leaves in your tea pot. Generally speaking, one heaped teaspoon (about 2 g) per person, but if you are preparing tea for one person only, you get more consistent result if you use 3-4 g (1.5-2 heaped teaspoon; as they say, one for you and one for the pot).
One pack of Makijima Tea Co. tea is designed to last you roughly a month, making sure the tea is used up while still fresh.
Step 3: The water goes in, and wait (but not too long)
Now you have tea leaves in the tea pot, the hot water sitting in the cup(s) goes into the tea pot.
It is important to make sure tea leaves have enough water and space to open up and release the full spectrum of flavours. A LOT of cafes and restaurants fail at this stage because the little metal mesh basket thing they use in their pots is too small. If you have one of those, be gone with them and use the classic and trusted tea strainer over your tea cup(s) as you pour.
For fukamushi sencha and hōjicha, steeping time is 45 seconds to 1 minute and for sencha it is slightly longer at 1.5 to 2 minutes.
Little tip: If you want your tea to be stronger, it is best to use more tea leaves than increasing steeping time.
Step 4: Final countdown to the tea cups
By now you should be humming the 1986 smash hit, The Final Countdown by Europe. When you pour into the tea cup(s), make it into three little pours for the best result as it opens up the flavour and aroma even further. If you are sharing the tea with others, rotate each little pour across cups for a consistent result for each person. It is important to make sure you pour out till the last drop because these last few drops have the best flavour. Also, leaving no water in the pot means your second brew is not going to have overpowering bitterness. Yes, most quality tea leaves can give you second (or third) brew; just use slightly warmer water temperature and shorter steeping time!
Big tip: One common issue you might experience in pouring Japanese green tea is that the tea leaves clog up the spout, preventing tea from pouring out. This is especially common with fukamushi sencha because of its finer leaf consistency. The best way to avoid this is to pour slowly. But if it still happens, you could wiggle the tea pot to get leaves off the outlet (again, there's hot water in there so please be careful!).