Japanese Bancha Houghi Tea is a roasted green Japanese tea with a unique toasted scent and flavour.
It is occasionally called Hojicha, and is a superior quality Bancha mature leaf tea that has been roasted. The story goes that it came as an idea to a tea merchant in the early 20th century who wanted to prolong the life of tea that he had overbought and came up with the idea of roasting it. I am not at all sure this can be true as the tradition of roasting Japanese tea has been around for centuries but its a charming tale nevertheless.
Japan has been producing teas for between 1000 and 1200 years, and all production is devoted to green teas. Some, however, undergo further processing such as roasting and in the case of Genmai Cha, additions in the form of rice kernels. They are usually rather more expensive than teas from China
Green tea is ubiquitous in Japan and is commonly known just simply as “tea”
Tea was first used in China, and in 1191, was brought to Japan by Myōan Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist priest who also introduced the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. Teas from Japan may often be referred to as “Japanese tea” to distinguish them from their Chinese green counterparts. Of course other stories abound such as the first documented evidence of tea in Japan dating to the 9th century, when it was taken by the Buddhist monk named Eichū on his return trip to China. We will probably never know for sure but whilst Japan makes some of the finest green teas in the world and has done so for at least a thousand years – it only accounts for around 2% of the world’s export of tea.
Japanese green teas are mainly made from Yabukita which is cultivar of Camellia sinensis.
Unlike Chinese green teas which are pan-fired, Japanese green teas are steamed giving them a more “vegetative” or “leafy” taste.
Japanese green teas are categorized by the age of the leaves: young leaves are called Sencha and the mature, larger leaves are called Bancha. Types of tea are commonly graded depending on the quality and the parts of the plant used as well as how they are processed.