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Tea Tasting: Houjicha Select, Japanese Green Tea

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#1 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 10:16 PM

eG Society member Kyle Stewart at The Cultured Cup is contributing three Japanese green teas for tastings here in the Coffee & Tea forum. This, the second one, is a Houjicha Select.

Kyle has provided four samples of 10 grams each, and I will mail three of them to the eG Society members participating in this tasting.

While the tasting is open to all members who have posted at least ten substantive posts in the Coffee and Tea forum, preference will be given until midnight (EDST) Wednesday, June 24th to those who have not yet participated in any of the last three tastings.

As always, everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion.

So, please PM me now for details if you would like to receive one of the the free samples and participate in the tasting and discussion.

Here is a little information on Houjicha from The Cultured Cup:

Characteristics of Tea:
Hojicha, literally means “toasted tea.” The wide leaves of this green tea have been toasted, which produces a surprising and delicious taste. Naturally low in caffeine.

Brewing Guide:
For a 6-8 oz. cup, use 2 teaspoons and bring water to 185° Fahrenheit. Do Not Boil! Infuse for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove tea leaves after infusion. For more detailed brewing instructions, please see the "How to Brew Tea" resource guide.

Drinking Recommendations:
Hojicha is an ideal accompaniment with sushi or fish. Delicious hot or cold. Drink without milk.


As I have mentioned in other topics, I have known Kyle Stewart for some time now, having bought tea from his shop for many years, at least 10 years I believe it is. And for the past three years or so Kyle has been instrumental to my tea education through the T-Bar Club at The Cultured Cup. Kyle attended the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas recently and completed his three years of training with the Speciality Tea Institute to become the first certified tea specialist in Texas. I have had many pleasant times with Kyle and his staff, trading teas and sharing new tea discoveries. More than just a tea merchant I happen to buy tea from, Kyle is a culinary friend as well as a tea friend - the wonderful tea pairings at Sharon Hage's York Street restaurant and a shared interest in Asian food.

#2 Yajna Patni

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 08:12 AM

If any one is on the fence about this... do it! Its free! and you just have to write a paragraph or two after. (but you might end up having more to say)

I do not have any esoteric knowledge of tea, and no special equipment aside from taste buds and an opinion.

The teas I have tried have been really interesting, and the flavours downright different..... not like debating the blackcurrant vs blackberry at a wine tasting. ( I don't do that BTW!) Not subtle .

Its a really good opportunity to branch out and try something new for free!

#3 weinoo

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 04:41 AM

Received sample and hope to be brewing up a cup or two within the next few days.
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#4 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 01:44 PM

I'll be interested in what everyone thinks of this tea. It is very low in caffeine, so is served with meals and drunk by children and people sensitive to caffeine in Japan. Served both hot and cold.

I'll have some suggestions for a starting place for brewing soon. The directions on the package are a bit ambiguous.

#5 weinoo

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 03:08 PM

We tried this tea for the first time today. I don't know much, if anything, about tea rituals, tasting, etc. But, I do have that little pot (or 2 of them, I think) that holds a cup or so of water along with the little teeny cups (which are fairly annoying).

Anyway, I used about a 1 1/2 tsps. of tea for 8 oz of water, brought it to about 190 - 95 degrees and steeped for 2 minutes (for the first round). So mellow, we thought we detected notes of roasted hazelnuts perhaps. Practically sweet on the nose. And you can tell it's pretty much caffeine free, so I could see where it goes well with food.

I steeped the leaves again for about 2 1/2 minutes and found a more delicate and almost grainy toastiness, if that makes sense. Now I look forward to brewing some more and trying it cold. And comparing it against some others.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
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#6 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 06:30 PM

We tried this tea for the first time today.  I don't know much, if anything, about tea rituals, tasting, etc. But, I do have that little pot (or 2 of them, I think) that holds a cup or so of water along with the little teeny cups (which are fairly annoying). 

Anyway, I used about a 1 1/2 tsps. of tea for 8 oz of water, brought it to about 190 - 95 degrees and steeped for 2 minutes (for the first round). So mellow, we thought we detected notes of roasted hazelnuts perhaps. Practically sweet on the nose. And you can tell it's pretty much caffeine free, so I could see where it goes well with food.

I steeped the leaves again for about 2 1/2 minutes and found a more delicate and almost grainy toastiness, if that makes sense.  Now I look forward to brewing some more and trying it cold.  And comparing it against some others.

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Right. We're not trying to do a formal tasting here. People use a fairly wide range of equipment and methods, and I always learn something from what everyone does.

Are you referring to a Japanese Kyuusu, a side handled tea pot? I would be cautious if it has an unglazed interior; this roasted tea and other Japanese green teas do not play well together using the same unglazed pot. I use a 12 ounce glazed Kyuusu for this tea, but usually only brew about 6 - 8 ounces in it. The teapot is nothing special, but I don't want to put this Houjicha in my smaller unglazed Kyuusu that I use for Sencha.

When you say the tiny tea cups are annoying, I assume they are not saying things to irritate you, but that the size seems inconvenient. I used a large 10 ounce white coffee cup today while brewing 6 - 8 ounces at a time to experiment with the brewing parameters a little.

I brewed this just a little stronger than you did 2 grams ( about 2 rounded measuring teaspoons) to 6 ounces of 185 F water for one minute, first infusion. This produced a result similar to yours. Pleasant enough, but after doing two more infusions, I wanted to brew this stronger.

My second attempt was with 3.5 grams at 185 F for 2 minutes, resulting in a much more robust flavor. Second and third infusions were 195 F, 3 minutes and 205 F, 3 minutes. Both rich and flavorful, though a little different than the first infusion.

I should note that I pre-warmed the teapot before the first infusion, but I am not sure that is essential with this roasted leaf. It appears this Houjicha Select will tolerate a fairly wide range of brewing styles and parameters.

So what foods do you think it would go well with, Mitch?

(Edited in the interest of clarity. - RK)

Edited by Richard Kilgore, 17 July 2009 - 09:51 PM.


#7 Yajna Patni

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 03:11 PM

I just got mine, and brewed it this afternoon. I can't deal with caffeine in the afternoon so this was great. Just enough, but i will still sleep tonight.

The smell out of the little bag was strongly toasty. The leaves are pale and a lot of twigs looking pieces.

I used water that had boiled, and i waited around for a few minutes till it had gone off the boil and poured about 8 or 10 oz of water onto about 2 tsp of tea. My pot was warmed btw, because i always do.

The bag said to soak for a minute, which i did. The tea was delicious. that wonderful toasted aroma came through in the brew. There was a taste that reminded me of sushi, but i think actually reminds me of toasted nori. Very pale color, I decided that it need some more steeping so i left it for another 3 mins or so. Resulting brew was dark, and much stronger. Back taste slightly bitter. I was dissapointed not to find the umami taste of the last green tea i tasted, I was looking forward to a roasted umami thing. But the toasted taste was strong, with a very slight astringency, seemed all round dark and almost syrypy.
delicious.
second infusion.... almost boiling. paler color, toasted taste still there, but with out the astringency and bitter back ground i could taste more of the hazelnut mentioned above.
I prefered the first infusion. but both were excellent

what do i change next time?

#8 Yajna Patni

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 03:21 PM

As i drink the rest of that second infusion i have to say it rocks. I generally find the second time round tea gets sweet of vegetal flavoured, and i cant stand that. but this does not. it holds its own.
I would definatly be interested tin drinking this on a regular basis.

#9 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 11:11 PM

Interesting tea. In response to an inquiry, here's some brewing info I received tonight in an email from Adam Sachs at The Cultured Cup. I think it's consistent with what we have been finding, corrects an error on the package instructions and adds a little, too.

The roasting process and quality of the tea leaves allows Houjicha to respond well to a wider range of temperatures.  I prefer 185, as it yields a lighter, sweeter taste with notes of peach.  195-208 will give it more body, malt, pop.  6-8 oz. of water will work, but you'll want 3-3.5 grams of tea - that is a mistake on the package.  If you use 2 g of tea, I'd recommend doing 195-208 F for a little over a minute.



#10 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 09:54 PM

I am brewing this again tonight. Two infusions so far. Warmed the kyusu, and used that water to warm the fair cup and drinking cups.

I took Adam's suggestion and brewed the first infusion with 3 g to 6 ounces of water for one minute. Second infusion for 30 seconds. Liked the second one better; the peach notes that Adam mentioned came through nicely.

I'll try it at higher temps again soon and see what I think.

#11 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 10:23 PM

I bought more of this Houjicha Select to play around with. I have tried it with a range of temps and it is a most flexible tea leaf. But tonight I tried upping the leaf:water ratio to 6 grams to 6-7 ounces water. The first infusion at one minute was a bit much, so I dumped it and adjusted the second infusion to 8-9 ounces for 30 seconds - very good, and it probably has at least a couple of infusions left in it. Very nice.

If I was starting this session again, I would do a first infusion with 8-9 ounces H2O for about 45 seconds with the 6 grams of leaf. That should work better.

#12 Chris Amirault

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Posted 11 August 2009 - 12:36 PM

After a few delays thanks to the mails and a bit of overwork, I'm able to weigh in here.

I've been a fan of hojicha for a while now. I have a friend who brought some in (the Big Green Hojicha Chop Wood Carry Water Tea from RoT) and thought it was great. So I wasn't surprised to find that I liked it a lot.

I followed my usual routine: 5g of tea, 400g of water using an ingenuiTEA steeper. The water was probably ~200F, as I wanted to get out some of the body and malt Adam mentioned. I got it, all right: big roasty nose, full body, big and round. I detected not only the malt but the hazelnuts that Mitch described above. I also wrote "faint spice notes?" on a slip of paper.

Steeped the same leaves twice and the second version was very good as well. Really wonderful.
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