CANDYLEAF HOUJICHA is an autumn production of roasted tencha from Wazuka (lower Uji), Kyoto prefecture, Japan. Here, our asanoka matcha producer, Ui-chan, roasts material usually destined for grinding into matcha to produce houjicha ("roasted tea"). It's highly unusual to use this material in houjicha; but then, Ui is a highly unusual tea producer.
The material is a blend of cultivars (primarily zairai—"native species"—of mostly unknown genetic origin). In early spring, the trees are heavily fertilized with fermented plant and animal byproduct, shaded for 20 days under nylon tarps, harvested and within 24 hours processed from aracha ("raw tea") to tencha ("ground tea"). Tencha making is labor-intensive. The raw material is steamed, cooled, dried, destemmed, deveined, and sorted before going into cold storage. Each year, the tea Ui doesn't have ground into matcha is roasted to become her signature houjicha.
Houjicha can technically be produced with any Japanese green tea, but is most often roasted bancha (3rd or 4th flush material, usually from the autumn harvest). Generally, older leaves (not to be mistaken with the age of the tea plant itself; older tea trees are desirable) that grow further down the individual branches are considered unsuitable for sencha, and either processed into bancha or roasted into houjicha.
Ui makes ichibancha (first-flush spring tea) houjicha as well, but this year we favored the uniquely deep richness and attractive leaf of her first-flush tencha. This lot of 2021 material is toasty and sweet, offering comforting notes of liquid caramel and burnt toast. Experiment with steeping parameters; Ui's houjicha is forgiving and nuanced in several formats and through multiple steeps.
vintage — autumn '21
style — houjicha ("roasted tea")
cultivar — mixed
region — Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan
locale — Hori tea farm
elevation — 400 meters
producer —Ui Hori
nomenclature —houji( 焙じ) "roasted" | cha (茶) "tea"
(use freshly boiled spring water)
modern, large format [300 ml+ vessel — BOLI, large teapot]
4 grams — 200°F (93°C) — 3 minutes
traditional, small format [150 ml- vessel —gaiwan, small teapot]