Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea from Yunomi

Join me for a quick review of the Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea from Yunomi, who sourced this tea from the Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden, located in the Shimada City region, Shizuoka, Japan. The Google map below shows the general location of Shimada City.

I will be posting a Company Spotlight on Yunomi in the near future, but wanted to get this review posted while it was fresh in my mind.

This green tea is roasted, then smoked using cedar wood procured from Yakushima Island. Generally speaking, this style of green tea, known as Hojicha, is lower in caffeine due to the roasting process, and sweeter in flavor, with a dominant smoky and roasty character. It makes for an excellent tasting and refreshing iced or cold brewed tea.

You can purchase 60 grams of this Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea from Yunomi for USD $18.00 plus shipping.

Let’s get to the review…

The dry leaves have a uniform, pale brown color. The blend consists of small leaf fragments, and bare, woody stems. The leaves and stems are obviously roasted. The aroma is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke.

Seven grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 1:00 minute, per the suggested brewing instructions on the packaging. 30 seconds of time were added to each subsequent infusion.

The liquid had a pale, golden yellow color. The aroma again is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke. The body is medium, with a very smooth, velvety texture. There is no bitterness or astringency. The taste is also dominated by notes of cedar wood and smoke, with an overall roasty character. The aftertaste is sweet and woody.

The infused leaves have a uniform dark brown color. The aroma, as expected, is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke.

Although the descriptions above may seem two dimensional, being cedar wood and smoke, don’t let these short descriptions lead you to believe that this hojicha is anything other than delicious. That is exactly what it is. There are so many occasions that I can picture immediately that this tea would compliment perfectly. Served hot or cold, this is a satisfying, robust, yet refreshing style of green tea. The leaves can be used multiple times, and still provide that sweet, woody, roasty character. If you have not tried this style of Japanese green tea, now would be the perfect time to put an end to that drought. Trust the Japanese tea expert at Yunomi to source the finest hojicha, and other teas of Japan, that you can experience.

Thank you to Ian Chun at Yunomi for providing this sample of Yakushima Cedar Wood Smoked Hojicha Green Tea! Cheers!



Hoji Cha Smoky Roast from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms

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…

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast Dry Leaves
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast Dry Leaves

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.

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 1st Infusion
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 1st Infusion

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.

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 2nd Infusion
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 2nd Infusion

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.

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 3rd Infusion
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 3rd Infusion

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.

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast Infused Leaves
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast Infused 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.