Now the samples are flowing in from all over Asia again. As I perused the thirty-plus samples that sit on my table, I chose the Hoji Cha Smoky Roast from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms. Why? My first tea review was on a hoji cha basic roast, and I truly enjoyed the slightly woodsy and smoky taste of that. While researching that tea as I reviewed it, I found the other varieties of roasts available, and saw the smoky roast. I was immediately interested in trying one. Unfortunately, that desire got brushed to the side as hundreds of samples poured in to my office. Now, some of the prior samples have been finished, and the next round has arrived. All hoji cha varieties from Kyoto Obubu were included, and there is no question as to which option I am choosing first.
I would like to point something out before I get started with the review. As the number of tea tasting events that I host increases, I am finding that the amount of caffeine is a more significant issue with many people than I thought it would be. That being the case, and many of the guests of my tasting events now watching my blog, I feel it is important to touch on the caffeine subject when the opportunity arises. This specific green tea is unusually low in caffeine compared to other teas, even it’s unroasted green tea counterparts. The roasting process that these green tea leaves go through removes much of the caffeine, making this green tea a great option for later times of the day and evening. The smoky and roasty tastes may even make this tea your nighttime and after dinner go to beverage replacing decaf coffee.
The Obubu Tea Farms are located in Wazuka, in the southern part of the Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. This hoji cha comes from the Camellia Sinensis Yabukita cultivar. Now, let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of the Hoji Cha Smoky Roast are a uniform dark brown color with a slight dark green tint. The shape and size of the leaves are inconsistent. The leaves are very dry as a result of the roasting process, and break fairly easily. The leaves appear to be lightly rolled and machine cut. There are bare stems present, as usual. The aroma is charred wood, again from the roasting process.
The standard preparation method was used for this sample. Purified water was heated to 175°F (80°C). The five gram sample of tea leaves was placed in a cast-iron tetsubin, which was filled with twelve ounces (350 ml) of the water. The leaves were infused for 1 minute and 0 seconds.
The first infusion produced a golden-yellow liquor, with a slight brown tint, clear and transparent. The aroma is smoky with charred wood. The body is light-medium, with a subtle feel. The taste is charred wood, and sweet grass, with no astringency. The aftertaste is light and tastes of charred wood.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a nearly identical color (maybe slightly darker), aroma, body, and taste as the first infusion. There was no difference in the quality of the liquor between the first and second infusions.
The third infusion produced a liquor with slightly brighter color. The aroma remains smoky with charred wood. The taste is slightly lighter, but maintains the charred wood and sweet grass flavors. Very little difference between the second and third infusions. Definitely plenty of flavor left in these leaves.
The infused leaves have a uniform charred black color. The size and shape of the leaves varies. The leaves do not have the usual fresh wet leaf feel. They have a more rigid, substantial, and charred feel. These leaves are not exhausted of the flavor. The aroma is charred wood.
This reviewed seemed so simple to complete. Yet, as the Japanese tea scholars have repeated many times over the centuries, there is beauty in simplicity. This tea had two dominant flavors, the roasted and charred wood taste, and the sweet grass taste. Yet, the taste remained fairly consistent across the three infusions, with enough taste in the leaves to provide another infusion or two. There was little complexity to this tea, yet it is truly enjoyable, moreso than many of the more “complex” teas available. To me, this tea embodies the very philosophy of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, simplicity and beauty. The aroma and taste are simple, yet beautiful to smell and taste. Hoji cha remains my favorite of the Japanese tea products. Well done, Kyoto Obubu.