Do you ever wonder where those food crazes come from and why they're given that extreme "must-have" and "forgo all inferior predecessors" status? Think coconut products and you'll see what I mean. There's a new food trend on the horizon and I've got some information, thanks to a press release I received from Global Data, that is predicting it will hit the west next. Your beloved matcha tea may soon be usurped by another variety of Japanese green tea, and it's called hojicha. According to the release, Japan is witnessing a new tea boom with the growing popularity of hojicha. As a result, major food and beverage firms are rushing to introduce a number of hojicha-flavored food and drink products to capitalize on the opportunity.
What is Hojicha?
Hojicha is a roasted green tea with leaves that are brown in colour and have a pleasant roast aroma. It is a relatively low grade tea compared with other green tea, such as matcha, gyokuro or sencha. (I investigated a little and found out that tea grades are mostly based on leaf size which affects the brewing, and caffeine content.) The roasting is done in a porcelain pot over charcoal, whereas other Japanese green teas there are steamed.
Is Hojicha tea a healthy drink?
The healthy image of hojicha is adding to its popularity. Compared to coffee (60mg) and green tea (30mg), hojicha contains just 20mg of caffeine per 100ml which means you can drink it later in the day. On the other hand, it contains the same amount of catechin (an antioxidant) as green tea, as well as pyrazine, which helps to promote blood circulation and provides a relaxing effect.
Why is it becoming the tea of choice in Japan?
Hojicha’s mild flavor and aroma, and growing health consciousness among consumers are some of the main factors which are fueling its boom.
How do the Japanese take their hojicha?
Japanese people generally drink it without milk or sugar. However, it has become more popular following the discovery that it's quite good with milk flavors. Subsequently, Starbucks Japan introduced a hojicha latte drink. (Just a guess that this commercial version may not be as healthy as the traditional concoctions!)
Even food isn't safe from being ousted by something newer, better and more exciting in our fickle culture - but then, is it really our own doing? It will be interesting to see whether in the next year or so we'll be seeing hojicha where matcha used to be. If cafe-sold lattes are one of the big draws, well, matcha already makes for really nice ones that are good for you, too. I like mine with almond milk. And the difference with matcha is that you can actually consume the leaves as it comes in instantly edible powder form. You simply tip the powder directly into your hot - or cold! - milk of choice - no brewing. This also means you can easily add it to smoothies, breakfast bowls, or whatever you want to make a bit more healthy. Matcha is more convenient than hojicha, but as we saw above, the latter has its merits where flavour is concerned. No need to choose, there's room for both teas in a latte lover's pantry.
So, with all of these user-friendly benefits, why would hojicha replace matcha? Well, guess what? It's cheaper than matcha. We may then expect that its benefits will soon be shouted from the metaphorical rooftops of social media as food companies in the west capitalise on (or create?) a new healthy beverage trend that saves them money over their current offering.