Green tea has been around for millenniums — even today it is growing in popularity for the exceptional health benefits it can offer!
But with so many options becoming more readily available, choosing an option becomes exceptionally challenging.
Two of these teas are Hojicha and Matcha. They share many similarities, but there are some massive differences when you look closer.
So, Hojicha vs Matcha, what’s the difference? It comes down to processing! Hojicha is made by steaming and roasting the leaves, which changes their color and flavor, and is available in loose-leaf, powdered, and tea bag form. Matcha is made by steaming and drying the leaves on a flat surface, a brighter green, and only found in powdered form.
Today, we will dive deep into exactly what these teas are, how they are made, the different types you can find, what they taste like and look like, and of course, their nutritional differences.
We’ve even included a small section on how they are prepared!
What Is Hojicha?
Hojicha is a specific type of Japanese green tea. What makes it unique is how it has been processed!
First, these green tea leaves are steamed to help prevent them from oxidizing.
Then, they are roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal coals at 302ºF (150ºC) for about 3–4 minutes. The outcome is a mixture of beautifully golden brown tea leaves!
This process of making hojicha tea leaves is surprisingly old — it was first discovered in 1920 by a Kyoto-based merchant. That makes this style of tea roughly 102 years old!
Types Of Hojicha
There are a few different types of hojicha you can find. One thing they all have in common is that they are made from the second or third harvest.
Another way to look at this is that the tea is made from lower-grade leaves. Remember, “lower grade” doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality — low-grade teas are unique in their own way!
1. Bancha (Most Common)
Most hojicha teas are made from bancha tea leaves — this is a common type of green tea leaf that is harvested from the second flush. However, the later the leaves are harvested, the lower their market grade (not quality) is.
There are 22 grades of bancha and each of these has a unique flavor!
Sencha tea leaves are similar to bancha tea leaves. They are simply harvested before bancha, so are considered to have a higher market value. Naturally, because they are harvested at different times, they will have different flavors.
It is also important to know that not all sencha leaves are used to make hojicha! Many are processed in the traditional way of making green tea, not roasted.
You also get a variety called kukicha, also referred to as bocha. This tea mostly is primarily made up of the twigs and stems of the tea plant, not just the tea leaves.
That is also why this tea is often labeled as “twig tea.”
Another thing that makes this ingredient unique is that you can buy it in three forms!
1. Loose Leaf Hojicha
This form works best for steeping whole leaves. This is a time-consuming process, but you will get a much better flavor, and the tea will transfer more nutrients to your body.
Again, you get a variety of different grades of hojicha. Here, you will be able to best discover how their flavor differs.
2. Powdered Hojicha
Next, we get powdered hojicha. This tea product is in a powdered, ground form. It is much quicker to prepare and has a different range of functions. This tea is better used in baked goods or cold drinks.
The biggest downside to using it is that you won’t get as many nutrients from powdered tea as when using loose leaves.
3. Hojicha Tea Bags
This is the form of tea that most of us are familiar with: tea bags! While loose tea leaves are arguably superior to tea bags since they deliver more flavor and nutrients, this is probably the most convenient option for day-to-day use.
Whether you’re making a single cup of warm hojicha tea, or making a large batch of iced hojicha tea, tea bags are an easy to use and even easier to clean up option.
When looking at loose-leaf hojicha tea, there are a couple of different textures and even colors. Dried hojicha leaves have a wedge-shaped, needle-like appearance. Mainly they are reddish-brown to golden-brown in color.
The different colors come from the different grades of leaves, but are also due to the roasting temperature and times used. You do sometimes get greenish leaves, but this isn’t very common.
The powdered form also has a reddish-brown or golden color to it. The powder is made by simply grinding the whole, roasted leaves or twigs.
This isn’t a very bitter tea. During the roasting process, the tea loses its astringent flavors. These are replaced by a slightly roasted, toasty, or nutty flavor profile. Many also describe it as having sweet undertones.
But again, as we’ve mentioned, different grades have different flavors. Some are more vegetative or smoky, while others have slight caramel-like undertones.
Hojicha powders don’t necessarily create different flavors of tea, but they create nuttier teas that are much creamier in texture. The downside is that their flavor is less prominent compared to loose-leaf tea.
Basic Nutritional Breakdown
First things first, hojicha doesn’t contain much caffeine. During the roasting process, the caffeine content is lowered significantly — so much so that many people consider it to be a virtually caffeine-free tea.
Other than that, hojicha is very high in antioxidants, which have many benefits to your body like fighting free radicals and cleansing your body of toxins!
Hojicha is a known stress reliever (like most teas). The L-Theanine amino acid is what helps boost mental capacity and reduces stress — it even lowers your blood pressure!
This tea can even reduce your cholesterol, which helps reduce the risk of many heart-related diseases.
How To Make Hojicha
If you are using loose-leaf tea, you will need a teapot with a fine-mesh strainer attached.
The exact amount of leaves you use depends on preference. On average, you will use 1–1½ teaspoons of leaves per 1 cup of water.
The general rule of thumb for water temperature is that the higher the grade of leaves, the lower the brewing temperature should be. The best hojicha teas are brewed around 190ºF (88ºC).
When you brew your leaves first, bring the water to a boil or the correct brewing temperature (with the leaves inside). Then, allow it to sit for 30 seconds to a minute to cool slightly. Then your tea is ready to be served.
What Is Matcha?
Matcha is by far the more famous green tea of the two, at least in the United States!
Matcha is an ancient tea dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618–907 A.D.).
Naturally, as centuries went by, the process of making matcha changed!
Today, matcha is in high demand, and there are many different types and grades. Matcha mainly comes in powdered form, but you can find loose-leaf tea as well (sencha).
How Matcha Is Made
To make matcha, the tea bushes are grown under specific conditions and using specific techniques. Essentially, the bushes are grown in the shade.
At some point, they are covered with nets to help slow the growth. That increases the chlorophyll in the leaves, which gives them a much greener color.
Once the leaves are harvested, they are steamed (to prevent oxidation). The next step is what makes sencha different from matcha.
To make sencha, the leaves are rolled and then dried. To make matcha, the leaves are made into tencha first.
What Is Tencha?
Powdered matcha is made from tencha tea. These leaves aren’t rolled and dried; instead, they are laid flat. This makes them crumble into smaller pieces. These pieces can be de-stemmed, de-veined, and ground into a finer texture.
They can be used whole to make a loose-leaf tea (which isn’t considered matcha). If you see anything labeled as “Matcha loose-leaf tea,” it is either sencha or tencha — matcha can only be powdered.
Again, matcha is made from tencha tea. The grinding process is slow because the stones cannot heat too much — it takes about 1 hour to make 30 grams of hand-ground matcha.
Grades Of Matcha
Because matcha is such an old tea and in high demand, there is a well-laid-out system for grading the leaves. There are three grades of matcha: ceremonial, premium, and culinary. The packages will be clearly labeled.
Ceremonial matcha has the most vibrant green appearance of all the options as well as the most superior, smooth flavor. This is the top tier of matcha, originally used for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.
Premium-grade matcha is best for daily consumption. It is made with young, top leaves and has a fresher, more subtle flavor.
Culinary matcha is the cheapest option you can buy and shouldn’t be used to make tea. It is slightly bitter because it is made from lower-hanging leaves.
Culinary matcha also has five subcategories (cafe, classic, ingredient, kitchen, and premium) with different intended uses, but we aren’t focusing on those today.
What also affects the “lower quality” is when the leaves are plucked and how the powder is made. As we’ve mentioned before, the later the leaves are harvested, the lower the grade is.
Matcha has a very bright green color. The shades vary somewhat (depending on the grade and production method), but generally, they should all be bright in color. Lower-grade matcha has a less vibrant color.
The powder should be dry, lump-free, and fine (like a powder). Bad-quality matcha (and even some cooking powders) have a coarser texture, which is less than ideal.
Matcha has an overall more vegetative flavor profile. Many people also pick up a savory, umami undertone.
One thing there is a big misconception about is that matcha is bitter. It is more bitter than hojicha, but ceremonial-grade matcha is rather creamy and relatively sweet.
Basic Nutritional Breakdown
Matcha is well-known as an exceptionally nutrient-dense green tea. But again, it depends on the quality you get!
Many people say ceremonial-grade matcha is the best for antioxidants, whereas premium-grade matcha is best for everyday drinking. Nevertheless, it’s up to you — just don’t use culinary matcha to make tea!
Matcha is high in antioxidants, boosts your mental health and overall brain function, and can help lower stress levels. It’s also known to help reduce the risk of many heart diseases and lower the risk of cancer.
It does, however, contain some caffeine. That isn’t a bad thing, but some people cannot consume caffeine at all. It is still less than coffee.
How To Make Matcha
Your water should never become hotter than 176ºF (80ºC). If it does, it will create a very bitter tea.
Matcha is sieved to remove any lumps before 2–4 grams of powder is added to the tea bowl with 60–80 ml hot water. The ingredients are then whisked to create either a smooth liquid or a frothy one.
This drink can have two consistencies: thick (koicha) for ceremonies or thin (usucha) for general use. The ratio of powder to water is what achieves these specific textures.
What’s The Difference Between Matcha And Hojicha?
With this overwhelming amount of information, let’s compare the two side by side to get a better understanding of more specific differences.
First, the way they are prepared differs. These two teas can come from the same bush.
Matcha is made from different grades including first-harvest leaves, while hojicha is never made from the first harvest leaves. For both, the later the leaves were harvested, the lower the grade of the tea will be.
Matcha is steamed, then dried on a flat surface. The production methods used for making matcha help give the powder a very bright green color. Matcha has a slightly bitter, earthy, and vegetative flavor. The overall flavor is very simple.
Hojicha is made by steaming the leaves, then roasting them over high heat. That gives the leaves a reddish-golden-brown color and a roasted, nutty, and smoky flavor.
The forms these two green teas are available in are also quite different.
And obviously, the way these two teas are prepared differs as well. Matcha is a powder that is whisked together with water using special equipment.
Hojicha is made using traditional tea brewing techniques, even though the brewing temperatures and times differ from other teas.
Finally, there’s their flavor and nutrition.
The flavor profile for hojicha teas tends to be more complex because there are more variable factors that can alter the flavor.
Nutritionally, both these green teas look the same. The most notable difference is that Hojicha doesn’t contain caffeine, whereas matcha does.
Hojicha Vs Matcha — Comparison Chart
Here’s a chart to further compare these delicious types of green tea!
|Form||Mostly loose-leaf tea, but you can also find powdered hojicha and hojicha tea bags.||Only available in powdered form.|
|Grades||Bancha (most common) is made from second-harvest leaves — there are 22 grades of bancha. Sencha is slightly better than bancha, but still pretty much the same.||Ceremonial grade, premium grade, and culinary grade (5 subcategories).|
|Grown/Harvested||Always harvested from second pick and onward. The later the leaves are picked, the lower the grade of the tea will be.||Grown in shaded areas to promote the rich, green color. The leaves can be harvested from first pick.|
|Processing Method||Steamed and roasted to dry the leaves and develop color and flavor.||Steamed and dried on a flat surface. Then, it is ground into a powder.|
|Color||Darker golden to reddish-brown color.||Bright green powder. Less vibrant colors indicate a lower grade of tea.|
|Flavor||Roasted, nutty, earthy, slightly sweet flavor.||More bitter, earthy tea flavor.|
|How It Is Made||Brewed in hot water and left to steep for 30 seconds.||Mixed with water using special matcha-making tools.|
|Caffeine Content||Doesn’t contain much caffeine, if any.||Does contain some caffeine, but still less than coffee.|