Hojicha and matcha are both Japanese green teas, and yet there are many differences between the two. Here's a comparison of their most notable characteristics.
Color of the tea
Matcha is of bright green color, especially when it is of ceremonial grade. The lower the grade, the less vibrant the color of matcha powder becomes.
Unlike traditional Japanese green teas, hojicha has a reddish-brown color. The hue of hojicha slightly varies depending on the harvest time, the roasting time, and whether it is made from Sencha (unshaded green tea), Bancha (common Japanese green tea), or Kukicha (twig tea).
Appearance of the powder
The tea leaves used for both matcha and hojicha are first steamed to stop the oxidation and fermentation process, and are then dried. Matcha is made by stone-grinding flat dried tea leaves (Tencha) into a fine green powder.
Hojicha is made by slowly roasting tightly rolled dried tea leaves, stems, stalks, or twigs resulting in a loose leaf tea. Like matcha, hojicha can also be ground into a superfine powder that can be used in food and beverage preparation.
Fresh matcha has a vegetal aroma, as to be expected from its vibrant green color. As a roasted green tea, hojicha has a soothing, almost therapeutic earthy and smoky aroma. Tea shop owners often brew hojicha to attract customers into their stores.
Difference in flavor
While lower grade matcha powder tastes bitter, ceremonial grade matcha is slightly sweet with a savory umami flavor and vegetal notes. Hojicha Powder has a naturally sweet taste and smoky flavor with distinct notes of cocoa. Any bitterness typically found in green tea is removed from hojicha when the tea leaves are roasted at a high temperature.
Matcha has approximately 70 mg of caffeine per cup, almost as much as coffee, making it perfect for early mornings. Hojicha has only about 7.7 mg of caffeine per cup, so it can be enjoyed later in the day. The low caffeine content is achieved by using parts of the tea plant that are naturally low caffeine, and as a result of the high heat used during the roasting process.
Matcha is prepared in a chawan (tea bowl) with warm water, a strainer, and a bamboo whisk. Water hotter than 80°C will scorch the matcha and leave it tasting bitter. First, water is poured into the bowl to heat it and then discarded. Then the matcha is sifted into the bowl using a strainer to avoid any lumps. Finally, matcha is fully dissolved by whisking it vigorously until a layer of foam appears.
Loose leaf hojicha is made by steeping tea leaves for as little as 30 seconds in 80°C (175°F) water. The bold flavor of hojicha deepens in hot water, but may turn bitter if left to steep for too long. The roasted green tea leaves can be placed directly into a Japanese teapot or in a tea infuser. Hojicha can be infused up to three times to extract all the flavor from the tea leaves. Hojicha tastes best as it cools and fills the rooms with its calming aroma.
Hojicha powder can be prepared in a tea bowl following the same instructions as for preparing matcha powder.